April 14, 2009

First place in my heart

“Sanctify” sounds so sanctimonious, so religious, so long-robed and pious, but it is a simple word with a simple meaning. The definition is “to set apart.”

The Oxford dictionary says that sanctify also means to make holy or consecrate, words with slightly different shades of meaning. Holy is “other than” and a word that describes God, so I cannot actually “make” anything holy unless it already is. Consecrate is more like sanctify in the sense of setting apart, but tips toward “dedication” or giving myself over to God.

1 Peter 3:15 begins with, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts . . .” which is a highly practical discipline for Christians, practical but not easy.

The author of my devotional guide says that it means I must exalt Christ as the object of my love and loyalty, recognizing His perfection, magnifying His glory and praising His greatness. I must also submit myself to God’s will, even if that sometimes involves suffering. He adds that if I live that way, I will “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” (Titus 2:10).

I agree, yet to me this verse goes deeper. It involves setting God apart in my heart — putting Him into the centre of my thoughts. I cannot exalt or magnify Him unless I am thinking about Him. Praise and obedience happen only when my mind is tuned that way, when my heart is occupied with the Lord and I am paying attention to Him.

This is not easy. I could use all sorts of excuses for it not happening. I am easily distracted (attention deficit). I have lots to do. Things interrupt me. However, God never asks of me things that are totally impossible and obviously, He wants this to happen.

The Bible gives much instruction about what goes on in my heart. It tells me to “Trust in the Lord with all my heart, and lean not on my own understanding; in all my ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct my paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

It also says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Jesus adds this thought, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). He also says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

Paul also tells me about governing my thought life. I cannot do what he says either, unless I also am first thinking about God, but good thoughts do produce good things . . .
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)
What I think about affects my emotions, but also my conversation. If I think all day about my family that is what I will talk about. If I think most of the time about my hobbies, or the work I do, or negative thoughts about injustice or hurt feelings, these are the topics I will bring up in conversations. However, if I think of the wonder of the Lord Jesus Christ and the glory of God, then I will not only talk about Him, but be quicker to listen to Him and obey what He asks.

As a Christian, I know I need to be committed to honoring Christ. It is far easier and more spontaneous when I practice first the simple yet challenging discipline of keeping the middle of my heart open for Him.

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