Posted by: stpowen | January 19, 2013

Sanctifying the Lord God in our Hearts

Mark 7:6. “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honours Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.’”

1 Peter 3:15. ‘But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.’

Please read 1 Peter 3:8-17.
Taken from a sermon preached at Scott Drive Church, Exmouth.

I am very pleased to be speaking on our chosen text for the year. I believe that it is very appropriate that it is taken from 1 Peter. We are living in a time when true Biblical Christianity is becoming less and less acceptable to many people in this country. Just before Christmas, I went to see our Member of Parliament, Hugo Swire on the matter of same-sex marriage. Not only was he utterly unsympathetic to my arguments, but I was called a homophobe for my pains. This is the new reality in which we have to live as followers of Christ. Peter wrote his epistle to Christians all over the Roman world (1:1) at a time when they were starting to experience persecutions of various kinds. In 4:12, he tells his readers, ‘Beloved, do not think it starnge concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.’

It will be helpful to have your Bible open at 1 Peter. Peter encourages his readers to emulate Christ. ‘For to this [undeserved suffering] you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth;” Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously’ (2:21-23). We should remember the very words of the Lord Jesus: “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil for the Son of Man’s sake…….But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who spitefully use you….” (Luke 6:22, 27-8). This is not the easiest path to follow, but certainly we should be praying for men like David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Hugo Swire, saying, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing,” and maybe the Lord will yet open their eyes.

In 3:8, Peter begins a summing-up (‘Finally….’), and he quotes from Psalm 34: ‘He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it’ (vs. 10-11).Now someone might say, “But I thought we just had to believe in Jesus and we’re going to be saved. What are all these conditions?” Yes, salvation is solely by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but that faith is not merely acquiescence to the proposition that there was someone called Jesus who lived a long time ago and did a lot of good stuff. True Biblical faith, the faith that saves, is seeing yourself as a sinner and a rebel against God, and turning away from that rebellion back to God, and trusting, not in yourself, but in Christ- His life, death and resurrection- for the forgiveness of your sins. But the Lord Jesus asks, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,” and not do the things that I say?” (Luke 6:46), and the Apostle John tells us, ‘Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practises righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. ……..In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: whoever does not practise righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother’ (1 John 3:10). Someone who has been born again- who is a child of God, adopted into His family- is a changed person. ‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone the new has come’ (2 Cor. 5:17). The true believer has a new heart and a new spirit that really wants to live a holy life. Is that you? Does it upset you whenever you fall short? Paul tells us, ‘Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?- unless indeed you are disqualified’ (2 Cor. 13:5). I don’t have time to dwell on this, but if anyone, having heard this is in doubt as to whether he is a Christian, don’t look to yourself and say, “OK. I’ll try harder to make myself right with God.” You’ll never succeed in your own strength. Cry out to God for forgiveness for Jesus’ sake, and ask Him to give you that new heart that hates sin and longs to be holy. And if you ask sincerely, He will certainly do so (Luke 11:13).
Peter continues (v. 13), ‘And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?’ That would seem unreasonable, wouldn’t it? Yet it frequently happens, especially abroad, and maybe it will happen in Britain more and more in the future. But we are not to be downcast; ‘But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you are blessed’ (v. 14a). There’s Luke 6:22 again: “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven…….” Because it’s always gone on, right from the beginning: “…..For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.”

Then, as if to prove that, Peter quotes from Isaiah 8:12, which reads, ‘Do not say, “A conspiracy,” concerning all that this people call a conspiracy, nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.’ There is some doubt as to the correct translation here. Other versions give for the last part of the verse, ‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened’ (NIV). Either translation could be correct, and it doesn’t really make much difference to the meaning. What are ‘they’ threatening? Persecution for sure; loss of friends, loss of job, in extreme situations even loss of life, as is happening in various parts of the world. These, of course are the very things that ‘they’ themselves fear. But we are not to fear these things. Why not? Because ultimately, we don’t belong to this world- it’s not all that there is. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20). As Peter tells us, we are ‘Sojourners [temporary residents] and pilgrims (2:11), but we are also something much better! ‘….You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, [God’s] own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness and into His marvellous light’ (2:9). How great is that? We don’t have to fear the stuff that the threaten, nor the stuff that they fear; we don’t dread it because we have a better country to look forward to, a better hope, and in that place there is no persecution, no poverty and no death.

Isaiah goes on (8:13), ‘The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow.’ That is what Peter is referencing in our text when he says, ‘But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.’ But Isaiah continues, ‘Let Him be your fear, let Him be your dread.’ That sounds very negative, but in fact the fear of God is treated as something very positive in the Bible. According to Proverbs 1:7, it is the beginning of wisdom, and in Acts 9:31 it is associated with peace and comfort. So what does it mean? Well, let me ask: Are you more concerned with pleasing your boss, your neighbour your family or your Government than in pleasing God? Most of the time, God willing, you don’t have make that sort of choice, but if you have to, which one will you choose? Whom are you more worried about upsetting; your Government, or your God? “….Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4-5).

Yet when we fear God in this way we will know peace because we are free from the fear of man. ‘The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?’ (Psalm 27:1). Way back in the 1520s, Hugh Latimer, who had recently been converted from Romanism to the Gospel, was commanded to preach before King Henry VIII. At this point, Henry was still very much attached to the Church of Rome and he and his chancellor, Thomas More, were very much opposed to the Protestants. As Latimer took his place in the pulpit, he looked up to the ceiling and spoke as if to himself. “Latimer, Latimer, Latimer! Be careful what you say; the king of England is in this place!” He paused for a moment and then spoke again; “Latimer, Latimer, Latimer! Be careful what you say; the King of kings is in this place!” Then he fearlessly preached the doctrines of grace before the king.
So, after that very long introduction, let us come to our text, and divide it, like Gaul, into three parts.

1. What we are to do. We are to sanctify or set apart. The sanctify means to set something apart as holy, or for holy purposes.

2. Whom we are to sanctify. The Lord God, or the Lord as God. Some of the ancient texts have ‘The Lord Christ’ and so the NIV and ESV translations give ‘Christ as Lord.’ The word translated ‘Lord’ is, which is the word used in the Greek translations of the Old Testaments to render the Divine name, Yahweh or Jehovah- LORD in most English translations. It is also the word frequently used of Jesus (eg, Rom. 10:9). So the translation could be, ‘The Lord Jesus Christ as God.’

3. Where we are to sanctify Him. In our hearts; not the organ that pumps blood around our bodies, but the mainstream of our being; the centre of all our desires, wills and emotions.
So the Lord Jesus Christ is not to be kept alongside other things. He is not something we add to our lives when we become Christians, like some sort of ‘optional extra.’ No, no! We must set Him apart from and above all other things. “Jesus shall take the highest honour,” goes the song, and so He must, not just in our songs but in our lives. We also sing the hymn that goes:
In your hearts enthrone Him;
There let Him subdue
All that is not holy,
All that is not true.

Is that true of you? Is Jesus Christ on the throne of your heart? Or does He occupy it alongside your house, your garden, your job, your pottery class or whatever else it might be? Listen to Matthew Henry’s commentary on this verse:

‘We sanctify the Lord God in our hearts when we, with sincerity and fervency adore Him, when our thoughts of Him are filled with awe and reverence, when we rely on His power, trust to His faithfulness, submit to His wisdom, imitate His holiness and give Him the glory due to His most illustrious perfections. We sanctify God before others when our deportment is such as invites and encourages others to glorify and honour him: both are required. Lev 10:3. ‘Before those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.’

Did you notice the ‘awe and reverence’ mentioned there? So many churches lack that reverence to God which He desires and requires, substituting for it a revolting casualness and false familiarity. “Let’s hear it for J.C., yeah!” He is the LORD; He is not some sort of Santa in the sky. Whilst we are His children, adopted into His family; whilst we may approach Him in prayer at any time, and He bids us call Him “Father;” whilst He is wonderfully loving and delights to give His children good things (Matt. 7:11), yet He is God and we are not. As C.S. Lewis said, ‘He is not a tame lion.’ We must set Him apart from everything that is ordinary or common or casual.

‘….And always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.’

When we do this, when we set the Lord God apart in our hearts, revere Him and seek to follow Him, we will, or should, find that we are different from those around us. They should, at the very least, hear no bad language, no profane humour, from our lips. They should observe our upright morals, our eagerness to help others, and if this is so, they may wonder about us and maybe ask us questions. We should be praying that this will happen. And if they do, we should have something to say to them; we shouldn’t be caught unawares. At the very least we should have a testimony which we are able to give at any time. Paul gave his testimony twice in Acts 22 and 26, and again in Galatians. We should also be able to answer some of the basic objections people raise against the Christian faith, such as the existence of evil in the world. And we should do this, not arrogantly or in a way that brings glory to us, but, ‘With meekness and fear.’ In the NIV and ESV translations, these words are rendered, ‘Gentleness and respect,’ meaning our attitude to others. But the word translated ‘fear’ in the NKJV is phobos, from which we get the English word ‘phobia.’ I have no doubt that the NKJV translation is correct. Now the fear cannot mean fear towards man. That would contradict what has been said in verse 14. Of course we should speak with gentleness and respect to those who ask us, so that they should not find us overbearing or arrogant, but we should also speak with meekness and reverence towards God, remembering that we are Christ’s ambassadors, that we are speaking on behalf of the King of Kings. Think again of Latimer; he put fear of God before fear of man, so let us speak clearly, reverently, patiently, truthfully, winsomely and boldly before men, and trust the Lord God to guide our words and draw others to come and hear the Gospel. We don’t have to convert anybody; ultimately that is God’s work, but maybe He will use us to encourage our friends and acquaintances to come to church and be saved by hearing the word of God.

‘….Having a good conscience that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.’ Those who are not saved by our testimony should not be able to accuse us of anything underhand or disreputable.

So there we have it. Sanctify the Lord in your heart. Set Him apart as your Lord and God, high above all other things in your life. Give to Him the very best of your love and obedience, meditate on His attributes, study His word and He will bless you and bring others to you so that they can share in the wonderful hope that we have as Christians.

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