1 Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord.”
What does it mean to set Jesus apart as Lord? The word “set apart” is the same word we often translate “make holy” or “sanctify.” When God sanctifies us, he lifts us up above the rest of the world and gives us a privileged position in his family. We are no longer ordinary, just another face in the crowd, part of a mass of sinful humanity for which he has little use. By the forgiveness of sins we are holy and perfect. By the faith he plants in our hearts we become eminently useful to him. He treats us as dear children and an indispensable part of his plan to save the world.
Of course, we can’t make Jesus any holier than he already is. But just as he has lifted us up to a special place and value in his heart, we can give him a special place in our hearts. We can lift him above all our selfish goals and plans. We can lift him above our investments, bank accounts, and tax sheltered annuities. We can lift him above our dream homes, our fancy vacations, and our 32-valve, leather-trimmed, high-performance vehicles. We can lift him above the manager we kiss-up to, the buddies we hang out with, the children and grandchildren we dote upon. We can set Jesus apart, set him above it all, by giving him first place in our hearts.
The position Jesus then occupies in our hearts is the position of Lord. Now a Lord has two things: authority and power. Our Lord has the authority to set the standard for us. He calls the shots. He makes the rules. With his authority our Lord describes for us what a Christian life will look like. Regardless of your personal gifts, it will look a lot like love, kindness, compassion, humility, and gentleness.
Our Lord also has the power to turn this kind of life into a life of witness for him. Now if he were an earthly Lord or master, that power would come from the outside in the form of threats and force. But Christ is the Lord of our hearts. It was his love that won control of our hearts, and it is that same love that puts the gas in our engine, the wind in our sails, and gives us the power to live in a way that gives a good witness.
At this point someone might ask, “But didn’t Jesus become the Lord of our hearts when we came to faith? Why make the command now?” It is true that he became our Lord when we came to faith in him as our Savior. But each of us also knows that there are ever-present challengers to him for first place in our lives. Nothing wrestles him for first place in my life harder than my own sinful nature.
That means that every day I need to repent and in my heart set apart Christ as Lord. Every day I need to hear a healthy dose of his love and forgiveness by which he made himself Lord of my heart in the first place. Every day I need to have the cross lifted before my eyes, and the hope of the empty tomb, and the power of Jesus’ ascension, so that my heart will be ready to live for him, and be an ambassador for him to others.