John helps to clarify several principles of faith in his third chapter today – our hearts help us know where we stand with God, whether our prayers will be answered, and whether God’s Spirit is resident within us. What does your heart tell you today?
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
The first idea John shares is that our hearts either condemn us or affirm us. Paul teaches us something similar in Romans 2 when he says that people “show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” Sometimes our hearts accuse and condemn us, and sometimes our hearts defend and affirm us.
So just follow your heart, right? We’ve been telling each other that for years. Except that our hearts are corrupt unless they are aligned with God. Watch John’s logic flow unfold. If our hearts do not condemn us (i.e. they affirm us), we can have confidence to ask God for anything because we keep his commands and we do what pleases him.
A heart affirming us must be linked to a life reflecting God’s purposes and ways. If we follow our hearts away from God, and we think we are in God’s plan because we followed our hearts, we are sorely mistaken. The evidence of a heart worth following is a life which reflects the ways and teachings of Jesus.
Why is that important? Because when we follow God, we live in him and he lives in us. This leads us to John’s final point: the evidence of God living in us is the Spirit of God resident in our hearts and lives. We ought to follow our hearts if we are living our lives in keeping with the direction set by the Spirit of God within us.
The Spirit’s presence is a fundamental test of whether someone is a child of God. 2Corinthians 13:5 outlines this truth for us: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” If we have the Spirit of Christ Jesus in us, we are in the faith.
If we don’t even know what this means, then we need to talk to someone to help us connect with God to become his child. Growing up in a barn doesn’t make us a farm animal. The heart test reveals our standing before God and with God.
Let me know if you want to talk.