1 Peter 3:15 But 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.
This is a verse I have used many times over the years to encourage believers, but it still bears close examination. The way it starts out is of utmost importance. Cultural Christians have no idea what this is about. Having Jesus as the Lord of your heart affects absolutely every part of your life. All of us tend to have areas that we hold back, sometimes without realizing it, so I am not of the camp that runs around telling people they aren’t saved, but even so, the importance of this cannot be overstated. Jesus said very plainly, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) He also said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) My maternal grandfather used to say that becoming a Christian was like giving Jesus the key to the front door of your heart, but spiritual growth was discovering rooms inside that were locked and giving Him those keys as well. The thing is, if Jesus really is your Lord, then you will have a hope that is both obvious and glorious, and people are likely to ask about it. That is the context of the rest of the verse, which is often used in isolation to encourage personal evangelism. It’s not much use trying to evangelize if Jesus isn’t your Lord!
I have had a lifetime of discovering rooms in my heart and life that were still locked. Sometimes the discovery has been painful, but more often, and also, it has been a relief. Since I desire that Jesus be Lord of every area, identifying why I have struggled with full obedience in specific areas has been a joy indeed. That said, the “payback” of people asking about the hope I have has been sporadic at best. A good part of that is Japanese culture. Matters of faith are considered intensely personal, and therefore are not polite to ask about. On top of that, being a Caucasian in an intensely Asian country makes people think all my characteristics are attributable to my ethnicity, so until they really get to know me, they think such things are irrelevant and/or unattainable for them. And then there’s the added factor of my being a “professional” Christian, as a pastor, and it’s like I’m from another world entirely. The only way I know to overcome that with any real efficiency is to raise up Japanese as strong believers with magnetic hope, and that is what I strive to do. However, there too the believers tend to consider me an unattainable example, and they don’t keep pressing in for more of God. All I can do is be faithful in prayer and ministry, teaching all who have ears to hear and trusting the Holy Spirit to get the work done in their hearts.
Father, thank You for the hope I do have, and for the joy of sharing that hope with others. I pray that more and more would receive it indeed, making Christ Lord indeed in their lives, so that we would have effective multiplication, and not just addition, for the sake of Your kingdom and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!