In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord
by Margaret Silvester
‘Jesus is Lord’ is the earliest Christian confession of faith. For those first century believers the saying was used as a contrast to the greeting among Roman citizens, ‘Caesar is Lord’. Despite threat to their lives they refused to swear allegiance to Caesar and the Roman Empire. In calling Jesus ‘Lord’ they were saying that He, and not Caesar, deserves honour. It was a public insult to Caesar that held the threat of death.
Peter exhorts his readers to make Jesus Christ Lord in their hearts. He is saying that when Jesus is truly Lord of the heart there will be no reason for fear, even in face of suffering. Lordship means obedience and to live in obedience is to trust Jesus every step of the way. Trust in Jesus is the antidote to fear, independent of circumstances.
Jesus has to be Lord in our hearts because in Scripture the heart is the centre of our being and from it spring emotions, thoughts, motives, courage, actions, attitudes, longings and character. The Bible warns us to guard our hearts – ‘Above all else guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life’ (Proverbs 4:23). If Jesus reigns in our heart our words and actions will portray Him to the world. Jesus Himself said, ‘Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Matthew 12:34).
In the human heart there is a throne. The big question is who sits on the throne. It could be said that there are three different kinds of heart. Firstly there is the heart of the unbeliever, where self sits on the throne. Secondly there is the heart of the double-minded Christian who wants to be in control of his, or her, own life and wants to share the throne of their heart with Jesus. But it’s true that ‘If Jesus Christ is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all’. Thirdly there is the heart of the believer who truly loves Jesus and who owns Jesus as Lord, not simply in words, but in loving obedience to Him day by day. Not partial obedience – full obedience - the whole of one’s life surrendered to Him.
Identification with Jesus involves more than simply saying, ‘Lord, Lord’ (Matthew 7:21). ‘But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have’. The meaning of these words from 1 Peter 3:14-15 hasn’t changed with the centuries. To truly own Jesus as Lord is to be loyal to Him whatever the cost. ‘Jesus is Lord’ is an oath of obedience to Him. To truly mean what we say involves living for Him alone, dedicated to walking in His will and abandoned to Him so that our lives speak that confession to a lost world desperately in need of knowing Him.
At our last Church service in Lancaster (before we moved south) the final hymn was by Bishop Dudley Smith. The finishing verse was – ‘Lord, for ourselves, in living power re-make us, self on the cross and Christ upon the throne; Past put behind us, for the future take us, Lord of our lives to live for Christ alone’.
Prayer: Dear Father, search my heart and know me. By Your Holy Spirit bring to light the things hidden from me that keep me from abandonment to the Lordship of Jesus in my life. May the words of my lips and the reality of my heart be pleasing to You so that I am the same on the inside as the outside. Amen.