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. (1 John 3:19-20)
Christian, your heart will condemn you.
The Apostle John is picturing a genuine Christian approaching the Lord and feeling unwelcome. His assurance is shaky. His confidence lost. He doubts whether he truly belongs to Christ. He is unsure if he is loved or hated by the Almighty. He feels this way because his heart condemns him. Perhaps he was defeated by a recurring sin. Again. Perhaps it is the accusation of his enemy. The lying lisp of the serpent has become louder than the voice of the Savior. Perhaps it is a kind of hyper-introspection where he stares at himself and glances at the Crucified One rather than the other way around. Whatever it is, John knows that every Christian will go through this and so he doesn’t say, if our heart condemns us, but whenever our heart condemns us. It is not an unusual or an uncommon thing for a Christian to feel condemned by his own heart and thus need reassuring.
So what should the Christian do when his heart condemns him?
He must believe two truths.
1. God is greater than our heart.
Christian, your heart does not have the final word about you. God does; because God is greater than your heart. What God has declared about you is greater than what your heart thinks about you. The Christian must say to his condemning heart, “Heart of mine, you may accuse and condemn me; but God’s verdict over me is greater than yours because God is greater than you!” Whatever judgment my heart may make is less than the pronouncement God has made because God is greater than my heart.
When a Christian finds that he is unable to forgive himself, it is because he has elevated the opinion of his heart above the verdict of God. When put in its rightful place, the accusations of my heart bow humbly before the greatness of God because God is greater than my heart. And my heart’s call for judgement is drowned out by His declaration of mercy. My heart’s whispers of “guilty” are made inaudible by His pronouncement of pardon, because God is greater than my heart.
2. And He knows everything.
What can my heart bring up about me that God does not already know?
He knows everything.
In fact, God knows the depth of my sin better than my heart. My heart is aware of some sin. Yet there are ways that I have offended God of which it is completely unaware. There’s a depth and ugliness to it of which my heart has no knowledge. What my heart knows in part, God knows in full. Moreover, there are future sins to come which my heart knows nothing of. But God knows them. He will not be surprised by their arrival. He knows everything.
And knowing everything, He forgave me.
Knowing everything about me there is to know, He chose me before the foundation of the world, set His affection upon me, sent His Son for me, extended grace and mercy to me, put His Spirit within me, and is preparing a place for me. So I say to my heart, “Heart of mine, you may bring up my sin; but what can you bring up that God does not already know for He knows everything!” Christ died for it. All of it.
And Christian, since He knows everything, He also knows that you love Him. Yes, He knows that too. Though your heart may tell you otherwise, He knows. However embryonic, weak, and faint the heartbeat of that love may be right now, He is able to detect it for He knows everything. And so despite our betrayals, we say with repentant Peter, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you (Jn 21:17).”
So whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.
[To listen to a teaching on this truth, click here.]