Message Title: ‘Confidence before God’ Text: 1 John 3:19-24
Introduction: How about a pop quiz? Who in the Bible said?
- How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years. (Zechariah)
- How will this be, since I am a virgin? (Mary) (Adapted from Brian Bill)
- Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? (Abraham)
What do they all have in common? (besides having a baby) Doubt. They doubted God and His Word.
And then there’s John the Baptist:
- The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
- calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are You the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7:19)
What changed? Time? Yes, it had been a couple of years between those 2 saying. What else changed? John’s situation.
- In the first text he was free and serving God in the wilderness of Judea.
- In the second text he was in prison waiting to die. He was lonely, he had a lot of time to think and worry. And that lead to doubting who Jesus really was.
Christian, has there ever been a time in your life when things weren’t going well;
- When you had serious health issues, when you had been deeply hurt by a close friend or relative?
- When you’ve prayed and prayed for God to deliver you from some difficult situation…
- and God seemed silent?
Has that ever led you to doubt God’s presence in your life? To doubt His goodness or His love or His forgiveness?
- Your answer, if you’re anything like me, is probably yes… Doubt affects everyone from time to time.
While it’s not always healthy, doubt, in itself, is not sin. The Greek word for doubt generally means to waver between two positions.
- In the Bible, doubt is not the opposite of faith, that would be unbelief, doubt is uncertainty.
The Rev. Martin Dale tells the following story:
- By the age of 19, G. Campbell Morgan had already enjoyed some success as a preacher.
- But then he was attacked by doubts about the Bible. The writings of various scientists and agnostics disturbed him. As he read their books and listened to debates, Morgan became more and more perplexed.
- What did he do? He cancelled all preaching engagements, put all the books in a cupboard and locked the door, and went to the bookstore and bought a new Bible.
- He said to himself, “I am no longer sure that this is what my father claims it to be—the Word of God. But of this I am sure. If it be the Word of God, and if I come to it with an unprejudiced and open mind, it will bring assurance to my soul of itself.”
- The result? “That Bible found me!” said Morgan. The new assurance in 1883 gave him the motivation for his preaching and teaching ministry. He devoted himself to the study and preaching of God’s Word.
Look, doubt doesn’t always come by means of a bad situation. Sometimes, it comes when we read books, do searches on the Internet, listen to Podcasts that teach something different than what’s revealed in the Bible, as G. Campbell Morgan had done.
- And there may be some within the sound of my voice, who have experienced that.. perhaps are experiencing that doubt today.
Look… doubt, is real. But it’s not something that has to lead to sin. It’s not something that has to hinder our walk with God.
How we choose to DEAL with doubt is the question. And the Apostle John, in our text this morning, will tell us the answer. Perhaps it’s what pastor and scholar G. Campbell Morgan read that helped remove his doubt.
Transition: Open your Bibles to 1 John 3:19 where we’ll find how to have confidence before God.
- 1 John 3:19-20 God is greater!
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 our heart, and He knows everything.
John starts by saying By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before Him;
By what? What is it that will give us the assurance, the confidence to know that we are children of God?
What does the By this refer too?
- Verses 17-18 with the word truth, being the connection.
It’s when we show love for one another… not just the emotion, not just saying the word, but doing acts of love and loving in truth, in a way that’s consistent with God’s Word.
Look, if you remember from our last study, we saw that God poured His love, agape love, into our hearts, to help us to not hate but to show real, practical expressions of His love, to others.
John’s saying that our obedience to Jesus’ command to love one another, is the basis for knowing that we belong to the truth. By loving in deed and in truth we’re assured that we are of the truth, children of God.
But, the truth is, no one loves perfectly. So we start to ask ourselves, ‘Am I loving enough?’, ‘Am I loving in the right way?’, or ‘Am I loving the right people?’
And, our failures to love as Jesus loves, often causes our heart to condemn us. And that leads to doubt.
- This condemnation is not the same as when we openly sin. (John told us how to deal with that in 1 John 1:9) This type of condemnation is a matter of scope or degree ‘Am I loving enough, or in the right way?’
- This can lead to feelings of discouragement and doubt that you’re still a child of God.
So, John’s answer to this is be assured…God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.
- Don’t look to your failures but to God who’s greater than your heart, greater than your failures, greater than your doubt.
- Don’t look to what others or even you might think about yourself, look to what God knows about you.
- Don’t look to your feelings… God is greater than your feelings.
Listen, while our heart knows our failures, our sin,
- God knows we are His though faith in Jesus.
- God knows the blood of Jesus always cleanses us of our sin.
- God knows nothing will ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
- AND, God knows there is now therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
Our heart/conscious, knows and acts imperfectly, but God… is perfect in all His ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.
Christian when your heart begins to condemn you for your failures and you start to doubt you’re ‘good enough’, ‘loving enough’ or even, still God’s child.
Be assured, your Heavenly Father is greater and knows you better, than what your heart may be telling you.
- 1 John 3:21-22 God hears and responds
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him.
John writes to those who are called Beloved.
And this is part of our wonderful assurance, the confidence we have before God.
- Beloved speaks of those who are specially, and specifically loved by God.
- God deals with us on that basis. We’re not mere subjects ruled by a king, but we are children who are loved and guided by our father.
And that makes all the difference in our confidence before our God.
Next John says if our heart does not condemn us. He’s saying that when we’re doing well at loving others with God’s kind of love, that our heart is at peace. In other words,
- The Christian who desires to love like Jesus loves, has no unconfessed sin, will have an untroubled heart.
And this peace, gives us confidence before God. We are assured that the path to God’s heart and ear is clear. So John adds: and whatever we ask we receive from Him, of course John’s referencing prayer.
- John’s saying that one way we know we’re saved, one way we know we are children of God, is that our heart is at peace and God hears and answers our prayers.
For far too many Christians, this is not their experience. And it’s often because
- They’ve chosen to love the world more than they love God. (John already addressed this)
- They’ve been duped by their worldly ‘heroes’ to believe that God is just a part time thing, and not relevant to their everyday life.
And it’s often these ‘worldly’ Christians
- who frequently experience doubt about God,
- but, who infrequently do anything about it.
And then there are those John says, who are not friends of the world and who have chosen to live faithfully for Jesus. John says their hearts are at peace with God.
- They’re excited about this new kind of life they have though faith in Jesus.
- They regularly experience God at work in their lives. He hears and answers their prayers and He’s giving new meaning to their lives.
- They see their Heavenly Father meeting their needs, and satisfying their hearts.
They know that God hears them and responds to their prayers because they are seeing, at least a little bit of Jesus, in themselves. Listen to what Jesus said about obeying God.
- And He who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him. (John 8:29)
Look, let me say this to make something perfectly clear. John’s not saying God is obligated to do what we ask, just because we’re walking in fellowship with Him. He makes that evident that there are conditions to answered prayer and one is found in 1 John 5:14
- And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us.
So, this is not a ‘name it and claim it’ kind of teaching. It’s a ‘walk with God, obey God and seek to do His will’ teaching. That’s why John adds because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him.
Many of our prayers go unanswered by God, because they’re not asked in line with His will or from a pure heart as we’re reminded in James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
- And listen, the more our prayers go unanswered for those reasons… the more doubt rises in our heart about God’s love for us and our place in His family.
Look, verses 21-22 are exciting verses for the follower of God. God want us to celebrate the assurances He gives us.
- But only those whose desire is to obey His Word and do what pleases Him
- will regularly experience the wonderful assurance that God hears and responds to our prayers.
- 1 John 3: 23-24 God abides in us
And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us. Whoever keeps His commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
In verse 22 John said because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him.
It’s here, in verse 23 that John gives us the specifics of what those commands are. He wrote:
- that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ
- and love one another,
The first command is to place your faith, your trust in Jesus, for all of this life and the next, because He is God in the flesh. Theologian William Barclay wrote:
- To believe in the name of Jesus Christ, means to believe in the nature and character of Jesus Christ.
- It means to believe that He is the Son of God, that He stand in relation to God in a way in which no other person in the universe ever stood or ever can stand,
- that He can perfectly reveal God to humanity
- and that He is the Savior of our souls.
- To believe in the name of Jesus Christ is to accept Him for what He really is, Almighty God, in the flesh.
Faith in Jesus is not only the key to eternal life, it’s the prerequisite.
Second, we must love one another. This is Jesus’ command in John 13:34.
Last week we say that love, God’s love, is defined
- In 1 John 3:16 as sacrificial. That we must be willing to not only die for someone physically, but that we allow our desires, our agendas, our wants to die, so that others might live for the glory of God.
- We saw in 1 John 3:17 that Love is compassionate. That’ love does’ ‘love acts’ ‘love chooses’ to help others. Even when it’s not easy or it might cost us something.
Putting these two commands together, we find that the Christian life depends on right belief and right conduct combined.
We cannot have the one without the other and still consider ourselves a child of God.
John finishes with Whoever keeps His commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
Those who obey the commands to believe in Jesus and to love one another, are given the assurance that God will hear and respond to their prayers. But that’s not all. They also have the assurance that not only do they abide in God, but that He abides, He dwells, He takes up residence, in them.
- The proof, is His indwelling Holy Spirit.
Listen, God gives the Holy Spirit to all who place their faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sin and eternal life in heaven.
And it’s the presence of God, though His indwelling Holy Spirit, that enables followers of Jesus, to live rightly and to love greatly.
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the assurance that we are children of God. And it’s what gives us the confidence to come before God, knowing, He’ll never turn us away.
Conclusion: A man once told D. L. Moody that he was worried because he didn’t feel saved.
Moody asked, “Was Noah safe in the ark?” “Certainly he was,” the man replied. “Well, what made him safe, his feeling or the ark?”
Steve Cole writes: The point is, if you’re in Christ, it’s not your feelings that save you from God’s judgment. It’s Christ who saves! Faith puts you on the ark! Make sure you’re on board!
And friends, when doubt raises its ugly head, that’s the first thing to ask… Are you on the ark, are you in Christ?
- Have you asked God to forgive your sin by placing your faith solely in Jesus’s work on the cross?
If not, do it right now.
- Ask God to forgive your sin.
- Place your faith, your trust for that forgiveness and for eternal life in heaven on nothing but the shed blood of Jesus on the cross.
- Ask Jesus to be your savior and receive Him into your life through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
- Then, daily choose to live for Him in a way that pleases God.
If you’ve already done that but have doubts that you’ve been good enough or not loving enough, our text was written for you.
Christian, when you doubt your faith, when you doubt that you’re saved or even have doubts that God exists, ask yourself these questions:
- Have you seen evidence of God’s working in your life? Have you had ‘God sightings’?
- Have you showed love others in ways that you haven’t before you came to Jesus?
- Has God ever answered your prayers?
- Have you, since you’ve been saved, seen times when you were obedient to God and lived to please Him?
Then know, be assured, that God in you is greater than the feelings of doubt you may have.
Christian, God wants you to be confident to come to Him, any time under any situation.
He wants you to be assured of His unending and unconditional love for you.
He wants you to be confident that no matter how you may be feeling.. you are a child of God.