Faithlife Sermons

4-8-2018 Unlovely Hearts with a Lovely Savior 1 John 3:18-24

1 John Series  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  43:36
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A man was honored as citizen of the year. He spoke and he told his life story. He said, "Friends and neighbors, when I first came here 30 years ago, I only had the suit on my back, the shoes on my feet, and a small briefcase containing what little my father left me. Today I'm chairman of the board of the First National Bank, I own hotels, apartment buildings, office buildings, & three companies with branches in 49 cities. Yes, friends, I have done well for myself and your city has been very good to me."
Afterward a boy approached him and asked, "Sir, I'm curious. What did you have in that small briefcase?" The RICH man answers, "That small briefcase just had about a half million dollars in cash and $900,000 in government bonds my dad had left me,"
The secret to this man’s success had to do with what his father had given to him. The same is true for us here today. The secret to our success is to recognize all our Father has given to us the moment when He gave us His Spirit to live inside of us.
2 Peter 1:4 LEB
through which things he has bestowed on us his precious and very great promises, so that through these you may become sharers of the divine nature after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire,
the Apostle John recognizes this briefcase that Jesus had left for us and that is what we will recognize as we continue this journey through this first epistle of John— 1 John 3:18-24
Scripture Reading:
1 John 3:18–24 ESV
18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 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. 24 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.
Verse 18 can either be linked to the previous paragraph or can be an introduction to what comes next. Most translations link it to the previous paragraph however I see it as a better fit to an introduction to what John is about to say.
let us not love with word or with talk/tongue” interestingly that “talk” word is the same word for “tongues” (γλῶσσα) But more importantly, John is saying: “Actions speak louder than words!” ( This agrees with the apostle Matthew and the Apostle James Matt. 7:24; James 1:22–25; 2:14–26).
but in deed and truth” The word “truth” ἀλήθεια might be slightly surprising. One would expect a synonym of “deed,” like “action.” The ἀλήθεια term can mean genuine (NJB) or true (TEV) like the use of “message” in 1:5 and 3:11 which emphasize both doctrine and lifestyle, so too, “truth.” The deed and motives must both be motivated by self-giving love (God’s love) and not just be showy deeds that feed the ego of the one acting which Jesus says earns them their own reward disqualifying these showmen from the eternal reward.
So in my humble opinion this is the context in which we should read the following verses that we have to show our love through action and right motive and the following is a commentary by this apostle what it means to show this kind of active love and where our focus ought to be as we love with deeds and truth.

I. Focus Inwardly (vv. 19-21)

1 John 3:19–21 ESV
19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
“By this we shall know” This refers to the loving acts previously mentioned, which is proof that his intended audience is believers and yet again evidence of one’s true conversion.
that we are of the truth” Believers’ loving lifestyles show two things:
that they are on the side of truth; and
that their consciences are clear.
There are two heart conditions the Christian can experience through our consciences:
The Condemning Heart
vs. 19-20a
All believers have experienced inner grief over not living up to the “standard” that they know is God’s will for their lives. As we proceed in our daily walk with Christ, it is inevitable that our hearts will condemn us.
Those pains of conscience can be from God’s Spirit (to cause repentance) or Satan (to cause self-destruction or loss of witness). This is then either good guilt or bad guilt. Bad guilt seems to be what John is referring to when considering his other writings. But whatever the source of bad guilt—an overactive conscience, the realization that they don’t love others enough, or even Satan’s false accusations—believers will feel the weight accusation. However, when this happens, we can look at how we are living out our faith by our physical actions and choices and then properly evaluate if we are living in the truth.
Is John actually saying we can be assured of salvation by our works?
Well…in the context of this letter, the basis for the readers’ assurance is the good works that they do. In essence, John is saying that true Believers can be confident in the Father’s presence by reminding themselves that Jesus’s love has been active in their lives as they have helped others and loved others. John is trying to console believers who are living by the standard of love but still struggling with sin (both commission and omission).
The believer has a condemning heart when he is guilty of sin. Undealt with sin causes our hearts to be condemned by guilt. John says that condemnation in the heart of the Christian when he sins is something that assures us we "belong to the truth" and are saved.
The somewhat ambiguity of the statement “for God is greater than our hearts” has prompted two thoughts on how to take this.
Some see it as consoling believers whose hearts (or consciences) condemn them of sin in general. They can hold on to the sign of sonship—God’s love.
Others see it the opposite way--that this phrase intensifies John’s warning. The condemning voice of conscience merely echoes the judgment of God, who knows the juicy details of each life. Therefore, we cannot minimize or excuse our sins as insignificant.
In both cases, by claiming God’s forgiveness through Christ, believers can come confidently to God, recognizing that his grace and mercy are greater than their guilt.
and knows all things
Because God knows everything, Christians can trust that he thoroughly understands and will forgive their sins and help them grow in the areas where they need it most. God knows our true motives and this is reassuring to those who are pure! How? as John says indirectly to the believer, even if your heart is unjustly condemning you, your heart is not the judge. Christians still struggle with sin and with our cursed flesh (cf. 2:1). We still face temptations and act inappropriately in some situations. Often the Spirit, and our conscience condemns us; however we are forgiven by YHWH. So as we repent, our conscience may not have forgiven us yet and John says essentially “That’s okay, because YHWH forgives even when we don’t forgive ourselves—HOW Reassuring!
Then what should believers do with the accusations of their hearts/consciences?
They should not ignore them or rationalize their behavior, but they should set their hearts on God’s love and His perspective. When they feel guilty, they should remind themselves that God knows their motives as well as their actions. His voice of assurance is stronger than the accusing voice of conscience. God will not condemn his children, for whom his Son died (Romans 8:1; Hebrews 9:14–15).
The Confidant Heart
vs. 20b- 21
God's wants us to have a confident heart. How do we gain a confident heart? By responding appropriately when our heart condemns us. How do we do that? By turning to God for cleansing. This is why John means when he says "God is greater than our hearts." No matter how burdened our heart may be, God can lift that guilt from our heart.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." - 1 John 1:9
God is justified in forgiving us because the cross covers all our sin.
In the Old Testament, Israel worshiped in the tabernacle; and in the holy of holies was the ark of the covenant. In it, among other things, were stone tablets with the ten commandments on them. They reminded the people of their failures before God. But on top of the ark was a slab of pure gold, known as the mercy seat. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would offer a sacrifice for the sins of the people and would sprinkle the blood of that sacrifice on the Mercy Seat. The mercy seat symbolized the ultimate sacrifice of Calvary. Now, the Mercy Seat completely covered the ark. It was as long as the ark was long; and as wide as the ark was wide. This was intended to illustrate that no matter how great our sin, God's grace and mercy are at least just as great, and just as wide, but really even bigger than any of our sins.
3:21 “if our heart does not condemn us
John’s readers knew Christ’s commands and could test themselves by them. If their conscience is clear, they can come to God truly without any fear
This reassures them once again of their standing before God as His loved children.
Some Christians may be tempted always to assume their guilt because of what John said in chapter 1:8–10, or a background of condemnation or sin that plagues their conscience. Addressing his readers once more with endearment “beloved”, John reminds them that they need not always feel self-condemned before God. This “if” (third class conditional) once more reminds his readers that they may or may not feel self-condemned. Their conscience will not always be accusing them when they come into God’s presence.
This lack of feeling guilt does not necessarily prove one’s innocence. This has to be true based on what John, himself, has already said earlier in chapters 1 and 2. Those refusing to confess sin still have it and are self-deceived. Those not loving their brothers are walking in darkness whether they know it or not. Also, John is not implying by this that those who do not feel guilt do not have guilt. He is just addressing the question of the person approaching God in prayer. The implication of what he is saying is that when one comes into God’s presence and has a clean conscience, it indicates they are not being convicted of any sins by the Holy Spirit. If not convicted, we need not search out sins or stand before God with guilt feelings which He has not placed on us.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words summarize these verses well about the believer:
“He knows that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces him guilty, even when he does not feel his guilt, and God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces him not guilty and righteous, even when he does not feel that he is righteous at all.”
As you focus in on your inner self, do you find that you are walking in the joy of the forgiveness of God? Daily applying God's forgiveness to your life is critical in knowing His love. Each time you involve yourself in confessing sin and receiving God's cleansing, you are brought to the cost of the cross, which is the greatest demonstration ever of God's love for us.
Daily, we should involve ourselves in the discipline of confession. As we do, we grow more deeply in our appreciation of the love of God. And with a clear conscience we can confidently come to YHWH which then brings our attention upward!

II. Focus Upwardly (vv. 21-22)

Am I really walking in the fellowship of YHWH?
1 John 3:21–22 ESV
21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
Walking in the forgiveness of God, makes it possible for us to walk in the fellowship of God; and through that fellowship, He can communicate to you and to me, through His Spirit, about those things He wants us to approach Him about in prayer.
John’s point is that we can have confidence before God if, when we look at how we are loving or not loving other Christians, we are convinced that we, in fact, do. We can be confident to the extent that we are obedient to God’s command. We can know God will hear our prayers, as seen in verse 22.
When believers approach God boldly (not arrogantly), they can trust that they will receive whatever they request because they obey him and do the things that please him. This agrees with what Jesus said in his final words to his disciples before the cross, as written in John’s Gospel:
John 15:7 ESV
7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
Again it is only when a believer is abiding/remaining in Christ and Christ’s words are remaining/abiding in the believer, his or her prayers will be answered. I am confident that you know this does not mean that all requests are granted; the context of this John 15 passage is that the prayers should consist requests of bearing fruit and glorifying the Father. The same holds true for our passage this morning, we will receive whatever we request. Believers’ requests will be honored by God when they are focused on accomplishing God’s will.
It is through prayer that we will grow more and more to appreciate Jesus's love for us personally, as in response to His spirit, we grow in YHWH, learning not just what things to pray for, but how to pray for things.
By the way, this is not just a NT concept:
Psalm 37:4–5 LEB
4 Take pleasure in Yahweh as well, and he will give to you the requests of your heart. 5 Commit to Yahweh your way; Trust also on him and he will act.
Learning to commune with YHWH in prayer is fundamental in abiding and growing in His love. As you focus upward, are you walking in the fellowship of YHWH daily? Daily, we should commit ourselves in the discipline of fervent prayer.
And when you’ve looked inward and upward, turn you attention outword

III. Focus Outwardly (vv. 23-24)

In verse 23, John has been expressing exactly what Jesus had said.
1 John 3:23–24 ESV
23 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. 24 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.
John summarizes what we have come to know as the Great commission (Matthew 28:19-20) "believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ" and the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) "love one another". In verse 24, John tells us how we can walk in obedience to both the Great Commission and Great Commandment.
Understand that He lives in us
v. 24b
When we first believed in Christ, His Spirit came to abide inside of us! WE THAT BRIEFCASE CONTAINING EVERYTHING NEEDED FOR SUCCESS! And by the presence of His Spirit, God has given us all we need to please Him.
Understand how to live in Him
v. 24a
Obedience is linked to abiding. God's Word is the key to "living" in Him. Only from the Bible do we know what Love is and that Love is evidence that we are in God and God is in us. Through God's Word, we can be transformed and live a God honoring life. Through the presence of His Spirit, we have all we need to obey God; and through the promises of His Word we learn all we need to know to live our life for God.
Sadly, by neglect of God's Word, many Christians live like the the rest of the world. Their life has been changed, but they don't understand all they've been blessed with so they act the same. Do you know the Bible well enough to know what it says is yours in Christ? As you look out at your life in this world last week and for this week, are you walking in the fullness of God?
Learning to live by the Word of God causes you to be amazed by a love that has provided all we need for life and godliness! Daily, we should involve ourselves in the discipline of reading our Bible.

So What?

This has been a passage that hasn’t presented any new truths, but it reveals profound truth. We all know we could be loving others more than we do now. I’m am certain we (as a local church) could possess more concern for the condition of lost souls.
Dave Mcfadden: Three elements are key to our growing in God's love:
1) Daily confession of sin;
2) Daily communion in prayer; and
3) Daily commitment to hearing and doing God's Word.
By practicing these daily disciplines we can walk in the forgiveness of God, the fellowship of God and the fullness of God.
So now is the time to ask: “Am I loving other Christians or am I neglecting them?” “Am I willing to meet the needs of members of my church and my neighbors?” To be able to meet needs you must get to know those around you well enough to see their needs and to be allowed into their lives. That means talking to them about themselves, inviting them to your home, spending time with them, and then doing something when their needs become visible.
Jesus said,
Luke 9:23 ESV
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
How's your commitment to following Jesus? Are you willing to deny yourself and take up your cross daily, and follow Him?
Just as the cross was literally the Father's plan for Christ's life; God has a plan for our life. And whatever else it might mean for you and me to embrace God's plan for our lives, it definitely means being willing to daily confess our sin, spend time in prayer, and read our Bible.
There are likely some who continue to struggle with assurance of their salvation. It is possible to get that settled and enjoy victory. That is what the Lord desires for you. He doesn’t want you living your Christian life continually worried about your salvation.
Maybe you know there was never a moment when you trusted Christ in salvation. Maybe the Spirit has dealt with you and you know you need to respond by faith. If so, Jesus wants you to come to Him and receive His gracious gift of salvation. He stands ready to meet whatever needs you may have!
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