“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 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.” 1 John 3.19-24
Two major thoughts are going on here — the condemnation of our hearts and the healing power of God to save us.
This very difficult to understand phrase — “if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts” — points to our own depravity and God’s power to redeem our brokenness. The fact that our hearts condemn us is true. They condemn us as guilty because our hearts are evil, broken, sinful and lost. But the good news is that “God is greater than our hearts and he knows everything.”
God is greater than our weakness. He is greater than our greatest sin. A lost and condemned heart is no match for a loving and grace-filled King who designed us to freely choose his forgiveness in exchange for control over our own lives.
The greatest “command” we have from God is this, John writes — “to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. These sound like two commands – 1) believe in Jesus and 2) love one another, but in truth they are causal in relationship, making them one. As in “believe in Jesus” (cause), “and you will love one another,” (effect). One action caused from believing in Jesus.
For those Christians, or secularists, who cling to social justice and equality for all, inclusiveness above all things — they have it wrong. Yes, we are called to love the sinner, help the weak, care for those who are persecuted, treated poorly and excluded from society but only after we believe in his name — the name of Jesus.
We love and care for those who are sick, hurting and broken through the name of Jesus. Without Jesus we are only weak humans trying to help weaker humans with no higher power to help us. For John writes, “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.”
As Romans 8.1 tells us, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Jesus is the key, the center, the focus. He’s on the main stage and not a side show. Our sinful hearts would certainly condemn or convict us to hell but because of Jesus, we are set free to be forgiven, to walk in fellowship with God, and to live according to his manner of holiness in heart and life.
And this is certainly good news!
“O Lord God, without you, all is lost. Without your love to rescue me, touch my heart, or defeat my fear, I would be a gonner. But your love has come down and made a way for me to be forgiven and for me to walk in your ways. Come now, Holy Spirit, pour out your Spirit upon your people. Help us know you and spread your message. Send your Spirit to fill our hearts and consume our minds with your love. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen