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19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.
1 John 3:19-20
Satan knows that we will not be secure in the love of God if we are constantly doubting our standing before God. Therefore, one of his constant aims is to accuse us before God in an attempt to drive a wedge between us and the Father (Revelation 12:10). In addition to Satan's ministry of accusation, at times even our own hearts condemn us, especially as we come into a more biblical understanding of the infinite holiness of God and the overwhelming depths of our own depravity. It often seems as though our consciences are screaming our guilt at us. Our conscious will sometimes attempt to convince us that it is simply impossible for our sinful selves to truly belong to such a holy God. It is one thing to defend against the condemnation of the devil, but what do we do when our own hearts rise up and condemn us? This is the exact question that this particular lesson will address.
“It can be difficult to defend against the condemnation of the devil, but it is often even more challenging to defend against against the condemnation of our own hearts.”
OUR VICTORIES SPEAK LOUDER THAN OUR FAILURES
In verses 16-18 of our text, John says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. If anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart to him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” Here John is teaching that genuine love will always express itself in practical good deeds. John’s point is impossible to miss: Sacrificial love is one of the undeniable marks of the true Christian. And by way of contrast, self-centered indifference is one of the undeniable marks of the world.
“Sacrificial love is one of the undeniable marks of the true Christian. In contrast, self-centered indifference is one of the undeniable marks of the world.”
Now notice verse 19: “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him.” In the very beginning of verse 19 of our text, when John uses the phrase “By this,” it is quite clear that we are meant to assume he is referring us back to verses 16-18. John is essentially saying that when our hearts are troubled by doubts and self-condemnation, we must reassure ourselves not by focusing on our failures, but by focusing on our victories in the arena of loving other brothers and sisters in Christ. John is saying that we should allow these acts of self-sacrificial love to serve as evidences that we are of the truth, and therefore, cease our doubting. This is not to put faith in our own works. Rather, it is simply to place even greater faith in Christ's work. We grow in confidence that Christ's work “for” us, actually was for us, when we begin to see evidences of Christ's work “through” us.
GOD IS GREATER THAN OUR HEARTS
A second way by which we can assure our hearts is by reminding ourselves that “God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20). Often a person experiences the feeling of condemnation when they come into new and deeper knowledge of their own sinfulness and depravity. However, God never comes into any new knowledge. He has known all things from the beginning. This means that God knows the whole story. And the whole story is not better than we think it is, but actually far worse. This should not discourage us. To the contrary, this should be an incredible comfort. There is nothing we will ever discover about ourselves which God did not already know. And in knowing the full severity of our sin and shame, God chose us to be adopted as his beloved children to the praise of his glorious grace (Ephesians 1:5-10).
Love is one of the strongest motivators in the world. When someone loves you, it gives you hope and strength. When you feel unloved or rejected by someone you love, it can be devastating. So when we speak of the assurance of salvation, we must recognize that we are speaking of nothing less than the assurance of God's fatherly love for us. This assurance is absolutely essential for any real relationship with God to exist.
1) Are you living out of a deep assurance of God's love for you? Or, are you living out of fear?
2) What is the difference between fearing God and fearing God's judgment?
3) Should Christians ever listen their own hearts? What does the Bible say about the heart?
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