1 John 3:18-20. 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 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.
John wants us to imagine ourselves in a courtroom setting. There you stand as the defendant before God the judge. And across the courtroom stands the prosecutor. No, it’s not the Devil. It’s not the World. It’s your own heart. Your own heart stands to condemn you before God.
Wait, who do you think you are coming before God?
Don’t you remember last night?
What about that promise you made to God? How’s that going?
Surely God is tired of your half-hearted efforts by now.
What about all your anger? Greed? Lust? Pettiness? Apathy?
Look at Eunice. Why can’t you be more like Eunice? When you start living like her, then you can come before God again.
Does any of this sound familiar? Has this courtroom drama played out in your soul recently? Is your mind screaming “I want the truth!” While your heart is yelling back, “You can’t handle the truth!” (A Few Good Men).
Remember, John is describing the normal Christian life to us. He says WHENEVER our hearts condemn us, meaning it’s a pretty regular experience isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but my heart (conscience) tries to condemn me pretty much every day. And, of course, the problem is that our own heart’s condemnation is the number one thing keeping us from experiencing God, and coming before him with our lives. If my life is condemning, then why on earth would I live it before God?
So how does someone who is in Christ regain the assurance that they can live their life fully before God? In his presence? Without condemnation? How do we silence the prosecuting attorney that is our own heart? How do we reassure our hearts of God’s love and faithfulness in the face of our own constant faults and failures? How on earth do we stand outside of our own condemning hearts and argue back?
The answer is the TRUTH. What we know objectively must overcome what we feel subjectively (or what we think we know). So what are these truths that can pacify our condemning hearts’ accusations against us? Here they are:
Truth #1. Jesus laid down his life for us.
1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
This is how we know we are loved – Jesus died for us. The cross of Christ is the first and final truth that speaks against all our self-condemning thoughts and accusations. Our union with Christ’s cross by faith forever seals our position in God’s covenant of love. We are now forever of the truth. Of Jesus – the Truth (John 14:6).
Truth #2. You DO love.
How do we really know that we are saved? I mean beyond the knowledge that Jesus laid down his life for us. Is there an experiential test? Yes. Look at your own love. Our love for one another is the proof of our union with Christ. We love as he loves – in word but also in deed and in truth. And it is by this love that we know we of the truth.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Your thinking about how bad you are at loving. And yes, you are. But you DO love. The seed of love IS in you and it IS growing. I’ve never met a Christian that I couldn’t identity some spark of love for God and others within. It’s always in there, because Jesus is in there. The Spirit is in there. He is pouring love into your heart. Don’t ask yourself how well am I loving, or compare your love to that of others. Look to Jesus. Receive his love. Allow that same love to grow and flow from you. It will and it is.
Truth #3. God is greater than your heart.
OK, if you’re still not convinced by truth #2, then you must find the greatest reassurance of all – knowing that God is greater than your heart. The judge you stand before is also your dad. When your own heart condemns you in front of the judge, that same judge invites you as his child to come sit at his side, his arms of grace surrounding you, your head leaning on his chest, silenced by your Advocate who has entered the courtroom and reminds every one of the greatness of God’s mercy, the sufficiency of his sacrifice, and the purity of the love he has poured into you. He reminds you that God knows everything. Not just the wrong you’ve done, but also the real and true love that is in you from the Spirit of Love. He knows you’re his child. He knows you’re righteous. He knows you’re alive in Christ. He knows the real you, and loves you anyway.
So go live your life boldly before him. Because “to live is Christ.”
Where is your heart (conscience) trying to condemn you today?
You in Christ
How does union with Christ reassure your heart today?
Christ in you
How might your reassured heart allow you to love God and others today?
Playlist: No Condemnation