15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 Yet do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that when you are accused, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame.
1 Peter 3:15-16
How many lives and ministries have been built on the latter part of 1 Peter 3:15? And how many have fallen because they were insufficiently grounded in the first phrase?
While some translations translate the first phrase, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts,” I find the ESV translation—which reads, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as HOLY”—to be the most compelling and arresting. We rightly lament the degradation of language in our culture, but there may not be a phrase whose unimaginable weight has lost its gravity more than the HOLINESS of God, especially, and inexplicably, within the church.
As Christians tasked with such a great commission, I believe we must first be knocked to our knees by the reality of God’s utterly unique and defining characteristic. We need to be steeped in it for hours, weeks, a lifetime, if necessary. If we lose the holiness of God, we lose the sheer inadequacy of ourselves.
We also lose our capacity for awe and wonder. Awe and wonder is the fuel that excites the most persuasive apologetic we have to offer: LOVE made real. What makes us peculiar as Christians is not an exclusive claim to truth, goodness, and beauty. It is our transformed hearts, which allow us to see people and situations as they are, NOT as we wish them to be.
Jesus was constantly dispelling the illusions of those who came to Him by getting to the heart of the matter: a reality that points to and finds its fulfillment in Him.
And what about closer to home, in our so-called modern reality? Look around. The problem is NOT that the devil’s illusions have succeeded in “deconstructing” God or even the world. The problem may be that miracles are so commonplace we take them for granted…if we recognize them at all. Are we not amazed at the everyday miracle of a wonder-filled marriage—a man and a woman, two alien humans living in a near-constant exchange of grace?
What if the answer to all our fears, including the reality of death, is the awe and wonder of dying every day? And how are we not completely overcome with delight and terror every time we pray? That we are communicating with the HOLY God of the universe, who hears us and cares for us despite who we are, should never cease to be recognized as a miracle.
If we are not awed that the sun rises every Sunday morning, there is little chance that we will speak of the wonder that the Son rose one particular Sunday morning. And if the world is not bewildered by little Christs, will they ever wonder enough to ask about THE Christ?
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Do you ever spend much time considering the holiness of God?
- What bearing does God’s holiness have on the life you live?
- How does God make it possible for someone to be in a right relationship to His holiness?