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1 Peter 3 Part 5: Sanctify Christ as Lord in Your Heart
1 Peter 3:13-17 - Do we submit to the Lordship of Fear or the Lordship of Christ?
“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 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, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.”
1 Peter 3:13-17 NASB1995
Peter gets to the heart of his message in this epistle with these passages. He is telling believers that they are blessed if they suffer for the sake of righteousness. We are not to fear intimidation or be troubled, but continue to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts. We should always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, but do it with gentleness and reverence. And if we are slandered, keep our consciences good so that the those who revile us will be put to shame. If God wills it, it is better to suffer for doing what is right than for doing what is wrong.
Well, I just restated these verses in that first paragraph and they are indeed powerful. In looking at various commentaries and thinking about what I know about scripture, the crux of the matter is that we must elevate and sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts and Lord of the Universe and continue to do this as believers. A sermon by Ray Pritchard, found on Precept Austin, has this to say about what this meant to early believers and to many believers in the world today:
Peter emphasizes that we must lift up Christ and worship him as our Lord, and we must do that even when it is not popular or easy. Chuck Colson commented that in the early church, if a person stood up in a public arena and cried out, “Jesus is God!” no one would be offended because the Romans and Greeks believed in many gods. To call Jesus “God” would not have seemed revolutionary or even risky. But if a Christian stood up and shouted, “Jesus is Lord and there is no other,” he would be putting his own life at risk. The Roman Caesars claimed the title of Lord, and this was a central reason why Christians faced persecution. They were willing to obey Roman laws, but they were not willing to call Caesar “Lord.” The same struggle over ultimate lordship explains much of the persecution Christians endure in various countries. In a totalitarian state, worshiping Christ as Lord can easily be seen as an act of treason.
Persecution of Christians is a worldwide phenomenon, particularly in countries in Africa and Asia. According to Open Doors in their 2023 report (at the link), more than 360 million Christians suffer some level of persecution, violence or discrimination for their beliefs. Below is a (busy) map from that Open Doors report showing the top 50 countries that engage in this active persecution:
It was surprising to see Mexico and Colombia on this map, but the violence against Christians in those countries (and Nicaragua) is primarily committed by cartels, guerrilla and resistance groups, or by truly repressive governments. In one of my recent devotionals about 1 Peter, I had some information about slavery and human trafficking. It is indeed interesting to see that those maps for the worst perpetrators of current slavery and this map align quite well.
But what about the United States and Europe? Where there is increasing secularism and acceptance and promotion of “alternate” lifestyles, are Christians feeling the heat? A Pew poll taken recently noted that 50% of Christians in THIS country have experienced or feel that there is discrimination against Christians (you can search for the results as the Christianity Today article about the poll wants you to create an account). As food for thought, here is a link to an opinion piece on AMAC from April, 2023 that discusses the concerns. When I pray the beatitudes every week, I pray for strength in the coming persecution, because I believe it is here (I could cite many examples) or not far in the future. Another resource that I support is Alliance Defending Freedom, which has had great success in recent Supreme Court decisions defending Christians.
So Peter tells us to always be ready to give a defense for our belief in Jesus. The Greek word for defense is ἀπολογία or apologia, meaning a reasoned statement or argument or verbal defense. We are not apologizing for our faith; we are, with gentleness and reverence, using knowledge of Scripture to make a reasoned case for belief. I have long admired some of the better Christian apologists, like C.S. Lewis (he actually helped me in some ways with his writing to come back to faith) and it is a tool that should be in the toolbox of anyone who evangelizes. In this secular age full of immature people who react to anything about Christianity with anger or insults, a truly effective apologist will hopefully make inroads into their thinking. I am too eager to “snap back”, so I am not an effective apologist but I am learning.
As for putting people to shame if your behavior is good when you are slandered, we’re probably past the point in history where a slanderer of a believer would feel any shame whatsoever. They would likely double down on the slander and we must use every spiritual resource to reason even more (the best choice), or know when to finally walk away without resorting to retaliatory slander. Put that slanderer in your prayers and pray that the Holy Spirit would help with a breakthrough. Stranger things have happened!
Here are some final thoughts from the same Ray Pritchard sermon quoted above on looking only to Jesus:
The real issue is the Lordship of Fear versus the Lordship of Christ. Those who make Christ Lord need not fear what earthly rulers do to them. As the example of Graham Staines shows, this does not exempt us from the worst kind of suffering. We may suffer and our children may suffer with us. But if we set apart Christ as Lord, we can rest well at night, knowing that nothing can touch us that does not first pass through his loving, sovereign hands. This principle offers the only possible explanation for the long line of martyrs who loved Christ more than their own lives. Before trouble came, they settled it in their own hearts that only Christ matters. Ponder those three words for a moment. Only Christ matters. In light of eternity, could anything in this world matter more than Jesus Christ? Since this world is passing way, nothing we do or say, nothing we achieve, nothing we own, no fortune we may amass, no empire we may build, no glittering list of friends, none of it matters at all compared to our Lord. Only Christ matters. We need to hear this, to repeat it to each other, and to preach it and teach it to our children. We will never be ready for suffering until we lift Christ up and set him apart as Lord of all.
Steve wrote about his momentary hesitation yesterday before linking our devotionals on the new Meta Threads app. I have also had hesitations about having a growing readership (what if someone argues with me?). Well, what if someone argues with me??? Time to learn and practice that reasoned defense of my Savior! I have prayed earnestly about those hesitations, asking them to be vanquished from my life; they come from the enemy and are based in “shame” about God, amplified by the noisy voices that hammer at us from our debased culture. Run with the truth and don’t let the lies win!
My next devotional examines 1 Peter 3:18-19 The Power of Suffering.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Please help me to become a better defender of Scripture and keep the Sanctity of Christ as the centerpiece of my life. I ask you through the Holy Spirit to help me overcome any fears I have based on possible persecution and to be strong in my confidence and faith in You. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Sermons from Keep Believing Ministries are copyright © 2020.