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Assurance Before the Lord – 1 John 3:19-23


Assurance Before the Lord

Text: 1 John 13:19-23A
We come now to a difficult passage. John has already told us that we will recognise the work of God within us, by the fact that we will love our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and others too, and we will love them as a response to the love that God has already shown us, in sending his Son, Jesus to die on the cross for us. Reading through this passage will remind you that there are perhaps some very special times in your Christian life, when your conscience may convict you more than any other time. It is when we come before the Lord to pray and to read his word. Now, I think, maybe John is going us a glimpse into a very important, but unseen happening, that occurs when we come before the Lord. Whether at Church or in the prayer meeting or in the quiet place…. something deeply spiritual is happening when we commune with God. So, John speaks about…

1. Coming Before God. v19 & 22 19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.
But the passage before us has, it seems to me, a specific reference to our approach to God in prayer. Let me explain

  • Coming before Him. Verse 19. states, ‘We shall assure our hearts BEFORE HIM. Now I know that we live our lives constantly in the presence of God. He is always with us. Even in the very darkest of times, the Lord is with us. Yet in a very special way, he is with us when we pray? How often have you heard a pastor or a person leading a service of worship, giving the invitation to ‘come before the Lord in prayer…’? When we pray, we ‘come before the Lord…’ We seek an audience with him.
  • Asking Him. Verse 22. Here there is another reference to help us to see that the context of John’s words lie in prayer. He writes, “whatever we ask we receive from him”. ASKING GOD requires prayer.

So, when we ‘come before The Lord, what will that be like? Humility Psalm 95:6. Thankfulness, Boldness. Frequently, Alone and with others. Let’s look at what John is teaching us here about coming before God, and about God knowing the thoughts and motives of the depths of our hearts and the assurance that brings us.

2. Communion with God.
Communion with God always has a profound spiritual impact on our lives – his presence is a transforming force. Malachi 3:2 But how does that work? Let’s see how, when we come before God:-

  • We are convicted. 20 For if our heart condemn us. We are, as John has already pointed out, sinners. A Christian though is different from anyone else, for he has a new nature, the Holy Spirit indwells him and he will be offended by his own sin. So we come before the Lord, perhaps to have that important quiet time, and suddenly we remember that harsh word we spoke though the day. We remember that thing we took that didn’t belong to us a number of years ago, or we remember that broken relationship that has never been healed. We may even find, that in contrast to what John has already taught us about Christian love, we have not shown Christ’s love to others as we ought to have done. We cannot come before God with sincerity without being confronted by our own sin.
  • We are scrutinised. 20 For if our heart condemn us God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Commentators have differed over the meaning of this verse. Calvin and Luther disagreed on it!
    • God knows even more about our sin than we do, for his inspection of our hearts is even grater than that of our own conscience! ” Calvin saw this verse as heightening our condemnation, saw the consequences and effects of our sin.
    • God knows our status before him! Luther, reading this verse, took heart! He believed that when God sees our sin, he also sees our redeemer, taking our place upon the tree for all our sins. He saw this as a comforting verse.

Neither of these positions are mutually exclusive! The fact that God sees our sin as it really is, and the impact that sin has had, and still forgives us in Christ simply demonstrates his grace all the more. Romans 5:19-20,

  • We are reassured. 21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. In Christ our conscience is cleansed. When we come before the Lord – when we pray, we should come humbly confessing what our conscience convicts us of. Jesus taught us, when we pray, every day to say, ‘forgive us our trespasses’. And when we do, he forgives us! We will have confidence in God’s presence!
  • We are compliant. 22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. John tells us here that when we pray, when we come into God’s presence, and we ask for something, we shall always receive it. Great, so why don’t I just ask him for a winning lottery ticket? But we cannot extract the first part of the verse from its context. Our asking is based on the presupposition that we are keeping his commandments and and doing what is pleasing in his sight. John 14:13-14 1 John 5:14-15 Our asking must always be in compliance with God’s will – and we discover his will in His Word.
  • We are obedient. 23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. 24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him Do you notice here that the two ‘commandments of Christ’ John lays before us here are basically just a summary of the two tables of the Law? Notice the order too, in which these ‘tables’ are always given. We must obey God, before we start to serve our neighbours. It is our relationship with God, though his grace and mercy that enables us to see our neighbours in need, and to serve them as we ought.

So, do we ever come before the Lord, and find it hard to pray because our hearts condemn us? Do we doubt ourselves, our salvation, our standing before God? God’s word assures us that he knows us better than we know ourselves, and that he has declared us to be his, in Christ. We therefore approach him with boldness, not with fear, and we pray, knowing that his will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven, and we leave his presence to live humble, repentant obedient, transformed lives.

© Bob McEvoy
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From → 1st John

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