1Jn 3:20-22 “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.”
Have you ever had your heart (your inmost feelings) condemn you? When we are blessed to see our sinful nature our heart immediately condemns us and brands us guilty. Thankfully, God is greater than our heart. After we have taken up our cross to follow Jesus, there are times that we stumble. In those times, our heart again condemns us. Again, I am thankful that God is greater than our heart. Only the grace of God can relieve us of our guilt and shame.
He knows all things. He knows that we are sinners in need of a Savior. He knows that we will stumble, and that when we do we are going to crawl back into our guilt. He knows that in showing us mercy and grace we learn to trust in Jesus. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ, we come to lean on His imputed righteousness. We will still stumble; we will still make mistakes; but we will do so with the sure knowledge that He has already covered us in His blood. I am not saying that it is okay to stumble; I am saying that as we learn to trust in Jesus more, our heart will condemn us less.
There was a time in my life that every failure, every shortcoming on my part seemed to undo me. I spent days in self-rebuke. I wallowed in my unworthiness. I was tempted to turn back because surely God was not going to use someone as worthless as I. Be assured I still recognize my failures and my shortcomings, and I never take an “oh, well” attitude toward my sin. He deserves my very best all the time and He does not always get it. However, I have learned over the years that my shortcomings do not prevent Him from calling me to continue to serve Him.
I don’t enjoy failing; I don’t use God’s grace as an excuse for my failures. I still go before Him in tears confessing my sin and unworthiness. However, I don’t have time to wallow in that anymore. I can confess my sins without wasting time being afraid that He is going to destroy me because I am still Adam. I realize this because, in spite of my Adam nature, I have been given the mind of Christ. My heart no longer condemns me to the point of paralyzing me with fear. God is greater than my heart! He loves me; He corrects me; He encourages me. This does not make me esteem myself, but rather to exalt God.
Paul declared on one occasion that he was “freed from sin (Rom 6:7).” When we know (in our heart, not just our mind) that our old Adam man was crucified with Jesus then we know (again, in our heart, not just our mind) that the body of sin is likewise destroyed. When we know that the body of sin is destroyed, then our heart no longer condemns us. Our heart does not condemn us because we have confidence toward God. I do not trust in the arm of flesh nor do I any longer fear the arm of flesh. My heart is assured that (without any merit on my part) God is my Redeemer. There is nothing in my life that He does not know and nothing in my flesh that can undo what He has done. I am confident in the work of Jesus Christ and in His calling. I am secure in His ability to keep me from falling and present me faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jud 1:24). How can our heart condemn us if we rest (have confidence toward God) in this assurance?
I pray that we can lay hold on the promise of verse 22. We receive of Him whatsoever we ask. Jesus told us this out of His own mouth in John 14:13, 15:16, and 16:23. The key is that we ask it in Jesus’s name. Asking in His name is not about a rote repeating of the phrase. It is about the Holy Spirit bearing witness in our heart that the things we ask for are by the authority of our Lord and Savior. If we do not have the spiritual authority (leadership of the Spirit) to make a request, then we ask amiss.
John says we receive of him because we keep God’s commandments and do the things that are pleasing to Him. Did John just give us the formula to make ourselves worthy of God? Certainly, Jesus said if we loved Him we would keep His commandments. But how is that we love Him? We love Him because He first loved us (1Jn 4:19). Surely He is pleased when we keep His commandments, but how is it that we please Him? In Hebrews 11:6 we are told it is impossible to please Him without faith. Where does faith come from? Ephesians 2:8 tells us that faith is the gift of God.
The fulfilling of all God’s promises begins and ends with God. Jesus (who is verily God) said in Revelation 1:8 that He is “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending.” We can’t do anything that is pleasing to God without Him (Joh 15:5). Our labor in His kingdom and the glorious promises that come with it have to be filtered through this truth; we are powerless without Him but we can do all things He asks of us through Him (Php 4:13).
May our assurance rest in God who is greater than our heart!