Seven Wonderful Truths About Genuine Believers
1 John 3:19-21 - Genuine Believers Have Confidence Before God
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
Sermon Delivered 8/8/04
We have been looking at the seven wonderful truths about genuine believers as they are revealed in chapter three.
Our focus in this message will be…
"And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God." 1 John 3:19-21
I can’t think of anything more important than being confident that we are "of the truth." Therefore, this is a very important message for you to listen carefully to.
Verse 19 – "And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him."
In our last message we saw that one of the key evidences that we are genuine born-again Christians is that we love our brothers and sisters in Christ. Verse 19 begins with "and hereby." The word hereby means by this. Therefore, by this (loving your Christian brothers and sisters) we know that we are of the truth!
The phrase "of the truth" means that we are not deceived in what we profess to be; that is, that we are true Christians. When we obey God, in any area, the result is that our hearts are assured before God or we have confidence before God. That means we know we are genuine Christians. The specific area of obedience that the Apostle John is referring to is seen in verse 18 "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth." This is based on our Lord Jesus Christ’s command of John 13:34-35 reminds us of -- "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." Loving fellow Christians is evidence that we true believers.
But what about…
Verse 20 - "For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things."
This is a difficult passage. I prayerfully pondered the meaning of the phrase "if our heart condemn us." Without a doubt, a troubled conscience is the immediate context of this verse. While I will not be dogmatic as to the meaning of this verse, I think that the troubled conscience in this verse refers to a Christian that is under conviction because he or she feels guilty that he has fallen short of properly keeping God’s law of love. However, I remind you that feelings can be fickle. Our conscience can delve into morbid introspection, causing us to second guess our thoughts or actions. Further, remember that Satan is the accuser of the brethren, can use our conscience against us and keep us from serving God.
So, what should be done? We should remember, "God is greater than our heart." We should pray a prayer similar to David’s -- "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalms 139:23-24
God is omniscient and as verse 20 says, He "knoweth all things." God knows the truth. David said in Psalm 139:2-5 "Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. 3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. 4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. 5 Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me."
As you lay yourself bare before God and search His Word, if you discern your motives, thoughts and actions were proper, forget the past and move forward for God. If however, God affirms that your heart is under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and you have sinned, confess the sin and repent, claim God’s forgiveness and change your behavior to line up with what God command.
Why is that so important? Proverbs 28:13 warns us, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy."
Friends, a guilty conscience brings fear, guilt, stress and pain. An illustration that points out the power of a guilty conscience is the practical joke that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Homes adventures, played on twelve of his friends. He sent each of them a telegram with a simple message: "Fly at once, all is discovered." Within one day all had fled the country, though Doyle knew of no wrongdoing in any of their lives.
Let me ask you a question. How would you respond if you received the same letter? Would you respond with fear or with confidence? If you could not respond "with confidence" I would strongly suggest you get right with God and if necessary man, because there is nothing that brings confidence like a clear conscience (see Psalm 32). The Apostle Paul took great pains to be sure he had a clear conscience. He said in Acts 24:16 "And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men." Why? That brings us to 1 John 3:21 -
Verse 21 - "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God."
Believers who are right with God do not fear being exposed. They do not fear His judgment. Rather, they have "confidence toward God." The word "confidence" in verse 21 (parresia) means "openness, confidence, assurance, courage, boldness, fearlessness," especially in the presence of persons of high rank. This same word is also found in 1 John 2:28 where we are told "And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming."
When we practice biblical love our confidence before God increases and our heart is full of peace, joy and boldness. And, believers who have a clear conscience have confidence in the presence of God. They are in fellowship with God. They can have boldness in prayer with God.
What a wonderful truth! Genuine believers have confidence before God. How about you? Do you have confidence before God? Or are you filled with fear, guilt and anticipation of judgment? If the latter is your state I ask you, is Jesus Christ your personal Savior? If not receive Him right now.
If you are a believer and yet you are still filled with
fear, guilt and anticipation of judgment ask God to identify the cause. If
the cause is unconfessed sin, confess your sins and get right with God.