Saturday in the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time

1 John 3:19-22

God Is Greater than Our Heart

It is true.  Christians struggle with doubt sometimes—perhaps some more than others—but every believer doubts.  I am of the opinion that those who do not sometimes doubt fall into one of two opposing camps: Either they are such holy people and so close to God that all doubts have flown away, or they are so lackadaisical and relaxed about their faith as to leave doubts for others that they have ever had a genuine encounter with the true God.

John seems to understand this.  He has told us that the Christian is the one who practices righteousness and loves his brother, and the unbeliever (indeed, child of the devil) is the one who practices sin and does not love his brother.  This is very simple in theory.  But when one tries to work this out, when one examines oneself in the light of John’s standards, one finds oneself on the losing end.  We must not understand the Apostle’s previous words as laying a new foundation for works-righteousness; John would have been horrified by that.  We must seek to understand John’s words and “tests” in the light of our Lord’s work on the cross if we shall understand them rightly.  Otherwise, we shall become tortured souls, always examining ourselves and always coming up short; for, we never are righteous enough, never loving enough, to suit God or ourselves.  And, I might add, this is of the Lord that we may ever depend on him for our righteousness.

And so John says, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before Him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than out heart, and He knows everything.”  In other words, God knows us better than we know ourselves.  He sees our efforts, pitiful though they be.  Yes, He sees our hypocrisy, but He also sees our sincerity as we try to live the Christian life.  And He forgives us.  And of course, He knows that even our meager efforts are only possible by His Spirit working within us, for as St. Augustine said, when we do anything for the Lord, “God does not crown [our] merits as [our] merits, but as His own gifts” (On Grace and Free Will, 6.15).  So, we may reassure ourselves before Him that He is our loving Father.  And if our hearts do not condemn us, well then we have confidence that God is exactly as I just stated.  And this being the case, we should ask of Him whatever is of His holy will knowing that He is the One working in and through us (Philippians 2:13), and that we may confidently leave all judgment unto the One who in the end will be the Judge of everyone’s heart (1 Corinthians 4:3-5).  So John would have us do our best and be at peace, and I think that is good advice.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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