This is how we know that we belong to the truth
and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence:
If our hearts condemn us,
we know that God is greater than our hearts,
and he knows everything.
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us,
we have confidence before God
and receive from him anything we ask,
because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and to love one another as he commanded us.
The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them.
And this is how we know that he lives in us:
We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
I John 3:19-24 NIV
Once again, we are taking a pause after two contrasts. The last time, it was after two tests before moving the third one. The pause is a pastoral one as John is sensitive to the concerns of his readers.
For those with sensitive hearts or more melancholy natures, the tendency is to think, “There is no way I’m a Christian! I don’t live a righteous life. I don’t love sacrificially.” Because all they can think about are their faiures. They don’t read the tests or contrasts and say, “Great! Now I am assured that I am a Believer!”
They just feel more condemned because they just think of their failures. If you can identify here, keep reading!
The Condemning Heart (vss. 19-20)
Boice went through an explanation of the Greek verb for “to convince” or “persuade” that is translated in the phrase “how we set our hearts at rest in his presence.” Basically, he said the meaning here is more likely the less often used “to reassure” or “to assure” which is why the NIV translated this passage the way it did.
At this point, John may be specifically addressing those who are thinking of what he wrote in the paragraph before about not loving in words, but in action. They see their love of others as a failure and not worthy of Christ whose love for them was so much greater.
John here is telling us to grab our minds and shake them! Don’t listen to their condemnations! Look at objective, specific acts flowing from His divine nature in you, as evidence that you are His. Don’t indulge doubt and deep introspection.
Next, realize that GOD, who knows you better than even you do, has acquitted you...if you are in Christ. Is that not amazing? He is the one who is trustworthy. Boice made an interesting point here that GOD wasn’t more merciful than your heart, but more rigorous!
Our confidence in our salvation is not found in an experience, but in His action and His word! See Romans 8 for the complete context but the following verses in particular:
What, then, shall we say in response to these things?
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—
how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?
It is God who justifies.
Who then is the one who condemns?
No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—
is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Confidence before GOD (vss. 21-23)
One result of an uncondemning heart is that we will have confidence in our relationship with Him! When we go to Him in prayer, we will have confidence that we have a relationship and that we have standing with Him to ask for anything that is in line with His will.
Who can have much of a relationship with anyone if they are struggling to know what their standing is in relation to that person? This is much more true with GOD. We know He is holy. We can’t see Him…or the look on His face. We see that in our imagination…and often we are wrong…if we are struggling with condemning hearts!
That is why Boice comments on the fact that this is an issue of discipline and faith as much as anything. We must “preach the gospel” to ourselves. We must remind ourselves that our salvation does not consist in anything that we do, but in the work Christ did for us! Some days and weeks, it takes faith to believe that! We can feel like failures as Christians. But the fact is that in Christ, we are complete and perfect…being made into the people He that He can use.
We have confidence to enter the presence of GOD based on our relationship to Him. We can enter with the boldness of one of His children. Because that is who we are!
So we not only have the confidence to come to the Father in prayer as His child to tell Him anything or ask anything, but we can come to Him asking and knowing He will hear and answer.
We don’t have to give disclaimers. GOD can handle them.
The essence of this passage is the contrast between the condemning heart and confident heart.
This is the story of the daughter who comes confidently to the Father as His beloved child…
Who talks to Him about anything that is happening and how she feels about it.
Who doesn’t edit anything when she talks to Him.
Who asks extravagantly and expectantly of the Father for the needs she sees around her.
Who expects to see Him at work in her life and in the lives of the world around her.
Which person are you mostly?
The one with the condemning heart or the confident heart?
Which person do you want to be?
If you are in Christ, you are the confident person and have all the resources to live that way!
Walk by faith as you trust the promises of GOD. He has done what He said He has done to complete your salvation perfectly. You can trust Him for your complete salvation as well as your salvation as you live out the Christian life!
Whatever you do in obedience to Him is an outworking of that salvation, it isn’t part of what you do to earn it or improve on it. When you fail…and you will, He is there to forgive over and over again without recrimination!