Question: "What does it mean to sanctify the Lord God in your hearts (1 Peter 3:15)?"

Answer: In his book The Air I Breathe, Louie Giglio discusses the idea that God, our Creator, designed every person for worship. Worship is what we do, and worshipers are who we are, says Giglio. If we consider how we spend our time, money, and energy and where we focus our affection and loyalty, we will discover a throne. That throne contains the things nearest and dearest to our hearts—it reveals what and whom we worship. The apostle Peter specifies the one Being we are to place above all others on the throne of our hearts: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:15, NKJV).

In the original text, the verb rendered “sanctify” (a form of hagiaz┼Ź in Greek) means “to dedicate, to set apart, to make holy, treat or regard with reverence and honor.” “Lord God” in the New Testament refers to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Peter says we are to “sanctify,” or set apart, the Lord in our hearts—we are to give Him a special place of honor. Other translations word the command to sanctify the Lord as “you must worship Christ as Lord of your life” (NLT) or “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy” (ESV).

Peter positions this exhortation within the context of persecution for “doing what is right” and suffering because of our faith in Christ: “But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it” (1 Peter 3:14–15, NLT). Rather than react with worry and fear, believers are to respond to persecution with worship and a renewed dedication to sharing the faith.

Peter alludes to the prophet Isaiah: “Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. He will keep you safe” (Isaiah 8:13–14, NLT). Peter’s admonition also echoes with these words of Jesus: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. . . . Don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:1, 27, NLT).

Sometimes in the Christian life, especially when faced with opposition or trouble, we are tempted to worry about potential threats and give in to our fears. Jesus promised us that, despite the tribulations we would have in this world, we can have peace and courage because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). We can “sanctify the Lord God in our hearts” instead of fearing what people might do to us. Our fear of the Lord will overcome every worldly threat. We can let Christ’s words of reassurance drown out every menacing voice. We can trust that the Spirit of God within us is greater than our earthly enemies (1 John 4:4). They may try to harm us and even succeed, but suffering a little discomfort now is better than compromising in our relationship with the Lord.

Suffering because of our faith is a mega-theme in Peter’s letters: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer . . . as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. . . . Those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Peter 4:12–19). The apostle Paul reminds us that our earthly afflictions are “light and momentary” compared to the “eternal weight of glory” that waits for us in heaven (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Suffering is an inevitable part of our calling to follow and serve Christ (Matthew 10:22, 38; Acts 9:16; 14:22; Philippians 1:29). Paul told Timothy, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). We should not be surprised if the world hates us (1 John 3:13). Instead, we should expect persecution and even embrace it, knowing God will empower us to endure through it (2 Timothy 1:8; 1 Peter 2:19; 3:17) and even bring good from it (Hebrews 12:7; Romans 5:3–4; 8:17; 2 Thessalonians 1:4–5; 2 Corinthians 1:9; James 1:3).

Sanctifying the Lord God in our hearts means giving our wholehearted allegiance to Jesus Christ and worshiping Him only—despite the cost. It reveals profound trust in Jesus as our sovereign Lord and King. We recognize that He alone is in control of our circumstances and those who threaten us are not (see 1 Peter 1:6–7). To the One who sits on the throne of our hearts we commit ourselves, and we continue to do what is right even if we suffer because of our faith in Him.


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