Confidence before God
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. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. 1 John 3:19-24
Do you ever wonder if you are really a Christian? Or if you have really been forgiven? John’s readers wondered this too! As we have seen already, John sets the bar high for holiness. He has said that Christians must be as pure as God is (I John 3:3), that no one who knows God can keep on sinning (I John 3:6), and that we should lay down our lives for our fellow believers (I John 3:16). This is a hard standard to live up to. In fact, apart from God’s help, it is impossible.
So now John writes about the effect these commandments can have on the “heart” of the Christian. First, what does John mean by “heart”? What John calls the heart, the apostle Paul calls the “inner being” in Romans 7. You might think of it as your conscience, or your mind, or your inner voice, or your thoughts and emotions. It can condemn, making us believe we are guilty or sinful or faithless, or it can give us confidence before God that we are forgiven and faithful.
Second, John makes it clear that the messages we get from this inner being can be right or wrong. Feeling guilt or doubt can be very powerful, but having those feelings may not mean that you actually are guilty or lack faith. Feeling far from God doesn’t mean you are far from God. Like the man in Mark 9:24, it’s possible to say “I believe; help my unbelief!” abiding in the gospel and yet feeling that something is missing.
Remember that it is normal to have doubts. John even expects it and pauses to offer his readers—and us—some ways to reassure our hearts. We’ll look at the ways we can judge our hearts’ truthfulness in the next devotional
Questions for reflection and discussion
1. Is your heart encouraging or discouraging?
2. Can you think of a time when you felt guilty but knew you were innocent, or a time you felt innocent but knew you were guilty?
Dear God, help us remember that our feelings and thoughts aren’t always true. You are Truth! We ask that You would give us the discernment to judge everything by Your standards. Thank you being understanding when we doubt. In Jesus’ name, amen.