Scripture says some hard things with regard to our words and behavior. It is not enough to know the truths of God – we must be demonstrating them. 1 John 3:10 says, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”
We tend to give ourselves a pass on both directives. The right things we do usually line up with what is convenient or comfortable for us – we make up our own rules based upon biblical truth, while rationalizing what is reasonable. In other words, we give to the poor by cleaning out our closets and making tax deductible contributions to Goodwill. Or, we volunteer at our children’s schools because we are involved parents. We nurture our list of good deeds to prove we are good people, because deep down – where no one else knows – we fear the evidence points to selfishness and unrighteousness.
Most of us who call ourselves Christians would also readily say we love our brothers. We are thinking of people in general – not terrorists – but people in our neighborhoods (except for the grumpy man that hates everyone), or those we work with (except the one who will-not-shut-up), or those we encounter while shopping (except for the irate parent verbally/physically abusing the misbehaving child) (or the guy who cuts us off in traffic and takes our parking place). We are able to “love” those we don’t know, but do we demonstrate unconditional love to our own family members? Spouses? Do they get the best of us, or the emotional sewage that comes with the freedom to let down our guard and be “ourselves”? Uhggg… think I need to bake my neighbor some cookies.
Verses 19-20: “This then is how we know that we belong to the Truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.”
The fact that God knows the things about me that I would like to hide from myself, does not really set my heart at rest. Obviously, my heart IS condemning me. But this is work only Jesus can do: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) It is the work Jesus did on the cross in taking my sin, which includes those putrid secret things in my heart. That is not just the sin that proved that I needed a Savior, but the sin I commit today while having a Savior, and what I will do/think/say in all the tomorrows ahead. If we truly understand the enormity of this gift, it changes our hearts to WANT our behavior and words to line up with Him. And when they don’t (since these changes can take time), we have a flag telling us something is not right. Instead of fooling ourselves about our goodness, we have the opportunity to confess to God the unrighteous things that linger in our hearts, in exchange for His forgiveness to the extreme of forgetting our sins.
It is only through Jesus’ miraculous, undeserved work that our hearts do not condemn us. The confidence we have is not in our good deeds, nor in our ability to love, but in His goodness and His love for us. Only now can our actions and words come close to reflecting Him.