19 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.
We have seen what true love for our brothers and sisters in Christ looks like in verses 16-18: the laying down of one’s life, just as Christ has done for us. However, John now adds that to be very sure you belong to Christ, you must check your conscious (as works are not verifiable of your true heart condition). Keep in mind that this passage is written to the church, to believers, however there are always wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing… even inside the sanctuary. So to be sure, John asks us to each take a look at our own hearts, to know inside ourselves whether we belong in God’s family.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
What is this love? It is a love for God, through the saving power of Christ Jesus. Any person has the ability to perform works or good deeds. There are even corporations founded upon doing just that. The real question is: why are you doing it? Do you give to the needy out of a desire to help them? What does your heart say when you give? Is it really for them, or is it so you can feel better about yourself because you helped someone? John (and Paul’s, in Corinthians) point is that if you do not love God you cannot truly give selflessly.
In verse 20 John says that if our hearts condemn us while we ‘love’ then we can be sure that we are not loving as Christ loves. His love is truly selfless. His death and separation from God was selfless, so that we might have a way to be with Him forever. The greatest gift of all is Christ, Himself. There is nothing that can bring more joy into your life than when you realize that God is our gift, He is the present you can’t wait to open and just admire. So if you feel a rush of pride, or a sweep of excitement about what good will come to you now that you’ve helped someone beware. Your love is not coming from the source of all love. In fact, you are not loving at all.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. – Matthew 6:2-4 (words of Jesus)
But, as the apostle says in verse 21, if your heart does not condemn you (if when you give, your conscience is clear) then you are blessed and whatever you ask of God will be yours. How can it be that anything you ask will be granted? Because the things you ask for will be the things God wants as well, because your heart is not prideful, and not self-seeking. You desire to please God – to obey His commands of loving Christ, and loving your neighbor. Your heart is after that gift that only God can fulfill – Himself.
If what we desire is God and all that He wills then we can be sure beyond doubt that we are indeed His children who have inherited His Spirit through Christ. Inside and of ourselves we are unable to please God, but when God is living in us we can speak to Him with confidence, knowing that what is said is of Him. We must ask Him for this desire of selflessness, knowing that He will answer.
“14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” – Romans 8:14-16
Lord’s Day 7
Are all men, then, saved by Christ
just as they perished through Adam?
Only those are saved
who by a true faith
are grafted into Christ
and accept all his benefits. 1
What is true faith?
True faith is a sure knowledge
whereby I accept as true
all that God has revealed to us in his Word. 1
At the same time it is a firm confidence 2
that not only to others, but also to me, 3
God has granted forgiveness of sins,
everlasting righteousness, and salvation, 4
out of mere grace,
only for the sake of Christ’s merits. 5
This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart
by the gospel. 6