Reason to Hope
Jing Ye—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Week after week, you tell your friends, “No, I can’t go on Saturday. Remember? I have church…No, not Friday night either! I also have church.”
Each time, your friends feel more disappointed that you can’t spend time with them because of church and they’ll ask, “Is church really that important to you? Why do you even want to go?”
At times this is where many people, including myself, get stuck. You can’t just respond by saying that your parents make you go because your friends will say that religion should be your personal decision. Instead, you have to respond with an answer reflecting your own opinion on church and how much it really means to you.
Without a sincere heart that willingly seeks to worship God, it’s hard to give a strong enough reply to defend your beliefs.
SANCTIFY THE LORD GOD IN YOUR HEARTS
sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you. (1 Pet 3:15)
If we do not know for certain the reason behind holding onto our beliefs, then, as Peter advised, “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.”
A Different Meaning
The first keyword in this advice is “sanctify.” To sanctify is to purify, consecrate, dedicate, and venerate. When used in the context of God sanctifying us, the definition fits.
However, in this verse where we are the ones sanctifying God, only “dedicate” and “venerate” are suitable. God can purify and consecrate us, but not the other way around, because God is holy.
Furthermore, we must dedicate and venerate God in our hearts. As living beings, the heart is crucial because it gives life. The Bible records the importance of the heart in Proverbs 27:15: “As in water face reveals face, so a man’s heart reveals the man.”
We can see that the heart not only sustains our physical life but also endows the core personality that makes us who we are—all of our innermost thoughts, desires, and emotions.
We cannot truly understand a person unless we know his heart, and neither can we live without a heart. Hence, if the heart is essential to a human, sanctifying God in our hearts is necessary to our lives.
A Different Feeling
As a whole, the phrase “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” implies that we should dedicate and venerate God genuinely. To dedicate, we should focus our time, effort, and thoughts less toward secular ways and more toward ways that are pleasing in God’s eyes. To venerate, we must always keep in mind that our God is almighty and worthy of worship.
This is not a one-time occurrence but an ongoing process that requires determination and persistence. When we have sustained our dedication to and veneration of God, then we will have completely surrendered the most precious spot in our hearts as a dwelling place for God.
Once this form of reverence for our Lord God has been cultivated, we will clearly understand what our motivation is in holding on to God’s promised hope of heaven and salvation. Deep in our hearts, there will be a yearning to willingly offer all that we have for God.
Even more, we will be convinced that every drip of sweat, every teardrop, every minute, every word of praise, and every good thing in this earth spent on glorifying God has served its greatest purpose.
THE HOPE IN YOU
So, “Is church really that important to me? Do I really want to go? Why do I bother exerting so much effort to serve God?” Until we learn to fully sanctify God in our hearts, we will not be able to defend our beliefs with an honest heartfelt reply. Instead, we will merely convey a message to nonbelievers that we Christians are not even certain that keeping a holy life is needed to reach God’s heavenly kingdom.
With God sanctified in our hearts, however, we will always be able to answer any questions concerning our faith and hope in God because we can base our defense on real experiences. The more we realize how much God means to us, the stronger we’ll feel about living as a Christian.
This way of life is not simply a religion anymore but becomes a relationship with God that is rooted in sincere love. Our hope is to one day spend eternity with God. We are not just holding onto this hope with one or two fingers but hanging on to it with our whole heart.