Get Assurance to Pray with Confidence
Dear Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Imagine if told you a magic secret, that enabled everything you wished for to come true. Would you try it just say these magical words with your wish: supercalifrgaliticexpialdotious - get an A on this test, land this job or contract, get this promotion, mom and dad stop fighting and shouting, virus to go away… One by one what you wished for happened. Would you keep using the magic formula keep wishing? I bet if you started wishing it started coming true, you would do way more wishing in your life than you do now. What would you wish for? - lottery numbers, a cottage, personal jet, nice car, the perfect spouse? That would reveal what really lives in your heart, what you really want what your character is. Well, John has no magic formula for wishing, but he does make an extraordinary claim that Jesus Himself made - that there is a way to pray - that will get you praying more often, and it s will result in God’s will being accomplished as you pray! Now who of us prays a lot and who of us gets answers in prayer? Wouldn't’ you want this? Don’t you think God wants that.
But confident prayer is really the byproduct of a more important secret that John is raising. The source and the first issue that John says you need to get settled is assurance. He’s really spelled out the purity moral test, obedience, and in the last passage double back to spell out what it really means to love. And remember that wasn’t natural love - ultimately self-centred - but a new self giving love of Christ in you- yes for those closest to you - time for siblings, family members,but also a heart opened to needs of spiritual siblings. Do you lay down your soul like Jesus did for you, when he gave you zoe eternal life. DO you take the bios/goods of this word - use them for others in their particular needs. Do you have a radar of the needs of those in our congregation? John says when you love with that action and in the truth of Christ - the whole purpose of these tests is to get assurance. He’s going to double down on the spirit and doctrinal test in ch 4. But pause to ask: do I have assurance of God’s life in me, of His salvation in Christ - and do I have the resulting confidence in prayer life? Do you want these?
Key Truth: When believers get assurance, they pray with confidence in partnership with God!
Does that describe your life confident partnership in your living and your praying with the God who dwells in you?
Let’s take the first and foundation issue first.
Question #1 Do I Have Assurance?
Here are some assurance question: One day we all will stand before God. It is an awesome thought, but a true one. We will stand before God and He will evaluate our entire lives. How does that thought make us feel? Are we nervous? Are we uneasy? Ambivalent? Confident? When I die, will I go to heaven? Do I know for certain that I will, or do I merely hope-so? Do I anticipate death with faith, or with fear? With confidence or with dread? With peace or with terror? Do I know that my sins are forgiven? Do I know that I am saved from the wrath to come? Many, many are uncertain. Here’s how to be sure: believe the promises of God in Christ. John 3:16 is as clear an example as there is. ‘Whosoever believeth in Him (Christ), should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ Am I a ‘whosoever?’ Do I believe? Then I have eternal life. Why doubt it? Regrettably, for most of us it is not quite that easy. It is obvious from our text that it never has been quite that easy. Christian people have been struggling with assurance be easy, but isn’t for many, though all saving faith component of assurance, not just true facts, but true for me… But John wants each and every believer, unlike false teachers to really know, to be assured@!
1 John 3:19
By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;
Knowing big deal in John’s letter, whether gnostic false teachers right to say have knowledge of esoteric secret - but live transformed lives, marked by self-love, hate, ways of the world, greed. Seem unconcerned about issues of assurance - just assume without application must be saved. PRESUMPTION. But John has been giving these tests that each one of us should take and they are about the type of love and obedience in our lives. And now he changes the verb tense, and uses a future. By this we shall/will know. Can’t know it right away. got to come to find out by experience testing it in the future, then experientially come to this knowledge. Must grow,. And what is it the we will come to know? That we are of THE TRUTH - what truth has John just been explaining?
1 John 3:18
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
We know all the practical ways agape, self-giving love is expressed in action. But what does it mean to love in truth. Using the same word that we are of the truth. Really love people in this church in and in your home, in this world, but you can only love them like Jesus loves you, when the love of Jesus, the reality, truth of Christ is actually in you. That’s the point that John made last week: 1 John 3:17
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
So what does it means that we are OF THE TRUTH - it means the love of God abides in you, the Living God Himself abides in you and you in Him. The truth of Jesus indwelling us with His Holy Spirit who pours the Love of God in to our hearts, so that that experience of unearned, undeserved love, that fellowship , become is the truth that we are of, that is the source of our loving. That's the goal then to know experientially that we are objectively in that truth. And its proven by subjectively us experiencing this obedience and love in your lives. This should be a great comfort to us, my assurance is based first of all on my performance in living or obeying. It is based first of all on the objective reality of God work in Christ - on the Cross in His resurrection, Ascension, in Him coming by the Spirit to dwell within me! The truth of Christ, do I believe and trust into him That the objective grounds of assurance - do I find Him and trust Him like that! Then the two subjective ground that prove I have Christ like that kick in. I love and I obey!
But immediately, the realism sets, in - my love and my obedience are not perfect, sometimes and at times even often I act hypocritically. I don’t doubt the truth of who Jesus is, or the certainty of his promises, but I doubt myself, I doubt whether my fruit is the real McCOy.
for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.
And John takes into full account this problem. The word for heart means the seat of our emotions and connected to our conscience. And we are never to take the approach I am a Christian conscience problem solved. Once our conscience was damaged and deadened in sin, but awakened by the Spirit before our conversion, being drawn to Saviour, and enlivened and healed, and sound functioning conscience - really important. Now when we grieve that Spirit our conscience convicts us, so we are rotten until we restore fellowship with God. And Satan stands as the Accuser of God's people - Q What do you do with accusing conscience that you re love isn’t often like Christ’s, and that your obedience and faith falters ad you fall?
And here is a great secret - assurance is not grounded and rooted in looking to yourself and your strength, God is greater than our heart, conscience. You know your conscience and maybe other people’s verdict , judgment about yourself. But it’s not the supreme court! What about God’s judgment? Its greater - and: For every look to self, take 10 looks to Christ and God’s judgment of you in Christ. A properly functioning conscience, ought to lead you in your need to Christ. Isn’t that how it worked with Peter’s denial There this failed disciple is asked a third time Peter Do you love me, and his healthy conscience is accusing him, but what does Peter say: John 21:17
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
We don’t rest in our conscience, but in the forgiveness its leads us to find in Christ. Luther put it this way: “Conscience is one drop; the reconciled God is a sea of comfort.” And there you can know - your verdict already delivered - Christ asking your guilt, Father declares you innocent, imagine rush of relief when someone like Truscott - its acknowledge free to live in society, not longer look at me like this. But we aren’t innocent, yet God says, I've taken care of it - don’t have to see yourself as guilty condemned, ; Like at boot camp,Hebrew prof, military man whose commanding officer was Officer Pounder: Enters barracks and everyone snaps to a painful waiting for the other foot to fall, silence. But then he declares: AT EASE, and everyone breathes a little easier. That’s what John talking about trusting God’s objective word to you in Christ more than even your conscience or your record!
DO you see the movement in our passage?, Do see it in an inexperienced young Christian life moving to becoming a more mature Christian. May be ever more aware of your sins, but that drives you to deal with it - by confess and cleansing - but you do actually start to sin less. God is greater than our hearts, guilty conscience, and he knows all.
How does God’s omniscience make you feel? Knows the truth of what’s happened in your heart, He knows you don’t love perfectly, but that motivation of self-giving love, instead of natural loves bent to self-taking. He knows reality of of your evangelical obedience, not to earn, pretend or perform but delight for God’s glory to please Him live the Jesus way!
Assurance then is grounded in objective fact of who we are in Christ, the promises, the gospel believed. That’s its objective ground available to all who bleive in Christ. But it is also has to be subjectively confirmed by the fruits produced by this - love and obedience.
Question #2: Do I have Confidence with God & Confidence in Prayer
But that brings us to the other half of what John is teaching us. When we have this assurance one the greatest results is a life of confidence with God and particularly confidence in prayer.
You know how important confidence is - speech, piano recital, athlete, ask someone out for a date, ask a friend help -am I going to get rejected, make a bold career change. Well, your greatest need for confidence is with the living. God. You and I are going to appear before Him one day. But already today we are to live COram Deo, before the face of God! . And can we say as we sing that We face our judge and maker unafraid? Because we are in Christ!? Or do we fear shrinking away. Live like Adam and Eve hiding in the bushes away from God! But John even more says, this will greatly affects how you live with God day to day now. Prayer
Do you see that when the gospel is believed and we are assured of it look at how we live: 1 John 3:21b
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
Kids talk to their parents like they would never talk to other adults. Yes respect, and deep knowledge they are for me, but there is also a boldness and a free-ness that kids come to parents in a good relationship. And so we read assurance creates this confidence to come into God’s presence. Have you ever heard someone, maybe yourself say, when we die God’s going to explain this that and the other things couldn't figure out. Not promised in Scripture and even then some thing beyond our understanding - but that idea that I can step into God’s presence and ask him something - that is confidence! And you ought to do that now daily in prayer! Hebrews 4:16
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
If you just ripped off your parents, scammed them of their retirement and the other kids inheritance, and you needed just a little more, but they and the family are stewing over what you’ve done. Would you come to Thanksgiving Dinner ready to ask - no confidence, feel stay away. But John is saying, because we have real peace with God, don’t have to wait to heaven to ask him - know that just like parents love it when a kid trsuts them enough to ask - God eagerly gives good things to His children. And John is saying, if you get assurance, you will start to have an open, free, secure, not timtid or fearful relatinoship with Him. Like a man in book I’m reading to our youngest, covenanters - speak with such respect yet so familiarly every day with God, secret spot outside. Go there early mornings, when big decisions needed to be made!
Look at this promise: 1 John 3:22
and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
There’s a promise meant to inspire you and I to really get praying. Really knowing God’s promises and pleading them for real help and real answers. John says, we get what we really ask for in real prayer. DO you have any real asking prayers in your life. He is inspiring new faith here. What might I start not wishing, but really offering up in true prayer. Do you believe such real prayer works? Look at Matthew 7:7
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Look at James 4:2b
You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.
Before I answer whether this is God giving you and I a blank cheque, you first have to answer me whether you believe success in prayer depends on confidence in God’s love and care and free access to His throne.
I will never forget a grade 6 student of mine, so getting what fait is and coming to me and then the whole class with Hebrews 11:6
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
A prayer without this kind of faith is not true prayer in Jesus name, based on His work and the new relationship, the inheritance, and new position He’s brought you into with God.
So no, this isn’t a magic rabbit’s foot or blank check to ask selfishly. It is prayer based on this kind of faith, that’s one condition. But later John shows there’s another condition: 1 John 5:14-15
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
There’s that word confidence again, I have confidence that God hears and answers my prayer when I am abiding in Him, His word is abiding in me. This was Jesus teaching just before accomplishing our peace with God, just before giving us the gift of the Spirit: John 15:7
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
This isn’t a blank check, its praying for what is consistent with the will of God. And we try to do that the best we can, and then specifically and boldly bring those requests to God. We say with Christ: Nevertheless not my will, but your all wise, all good will be done. And that is why John says, the stuff we will daily ask for and expect answers - its is while we are doing that will and seeking for it, and we need you to act God in these ways for this to happen:
That’s the end of 1 John 3:22b
and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
It is not that our obedience and doing what pleases him, causes God to answer our prayers. It is that answered prayer in a believers life happens in the context of a person - living in obedience, and more than tha beyond outward obedience, this I want to please God in how I live to day from within.
Think about it. You wouldn't have confidence to swindle your parents and then go to them and ask for another favour. And yet, how can we really pray with to God, while at the very same time living without giving a thought to what please Him and actively consciously defiantly breaking His commands! If no time for communion with God, reflection on life decisions, , Bible reading! In other words, as John Stott puts it: ‘Obedience is the indispensable condition, not the meritorious cause of answered prayer.
And that is why if you want to become a Christian who is powerful in prayer - it can’t come from occasional busts of obedience and occasional flights into religious activity. It comes from continuously keeping and continuously doing what pleases God. It comes from habitual obedience. It comes from ongoing close relationship with God in daily living.
Think of how that works with parents and kids. We occasionally give our kids gifts, sometimes not even on birthday or holiday. And we do that not because they’ve obeyed, but why because we love them. But if a kid is particularly rotten, going through a rebellious, defiant - comes asking for something from selfish or even evil motives - those parents might say I don’t think so. The relationship is the crucial context for asking and receiving. Do you see that your prayer life - success in prayer is dependent on your daily relationship with God!
So you getting this assurance this childlike confidence with God - will change your prayer life like nothing else can. Let me ask you, DO you pray both big and small things in the course of a day? If you have this childlike confidence, you will pray for big things that you would never have asked for if you did not have this confidence .But it will also make you pray for small things because you know nothing is too small in your life to occupy God’s attention. Some might imagine that our little prayer requests are so trifling that it would be almost an insult to bring them to God. What is sometimes a big matter to a little child is a small matter to parents; yet the parents do not measure the request only from their own point of view, but from the point of view of the child as well.
Congregation, do you remember the Wizard of Oz, got Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, and then the Tin Man. Do you remember they all come to the wizard to ask for something. Suddenly the Wizard says, “Step forward, Tin Man!” The Tin Man steps forward, and he is shaking and rattling all over. The Wizard says to him, “Do you dare to come to me to ask for a heart? You clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk!” Is that how Christians are to come into the presence of God in prayer—with quaking fear?
John is saying when get assurance, its to result in you and I, confidently walking with God in life, and boldly asking of Him in prayer. And John is saying, you know, you’ve got this. Why? Because as you believe the truth, and see that love and obedience as fruit, imperfect yet growing, as you pray real prayer - you know what you are experiencing that Holy Spirit of God brith those prayers and love and obedience - you are abiding in Him. 1 John 3:24b
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.
But to conclude let’s take a couple steps back.
Question #3 Do I Love, Obey, and Pray in order to Partner with God?
John has been writing this letter why? He saw, heard, even touched - the One who is eternal life - and false teachers, and arguments in the church, some threatening to leave, others just pulled away from living by the gospel even though they stay - and John after Paul, after Timothy John is writing saying - the goal is what: 1 JOhn 1:3-4
that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
And he’s given tests so that you can be sure of your salvation in Christ, and really grow in your own fellowship and partnering with God and with these people around you in Christ. The Purity Test, the Love Test, the Doctrine test. He’s saying take these tests, and he zeroes in on them a second time, but in this passage He is saying, the tests are the goal but the means Don’t get so hung up on am I loving, am I obeying, do I know enough right doctrine, that you don’t see that the purpose of those tests is so that you get that assurance and live more confidently with God, which will also mean you really talk with Him and the more you are praying like that, the more you will really see God at work in your life and in this world, which assures you even more.