Sunday, February 03, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "God Is Greater Than Our Hearts"


“God Is Greater Than Our Hearts”
Essential Christianity: 1 John
February 3, 2013 :: 1 John 3:19-24

If you have the NIV, you’ll notice that we left off in the middle of a paragraph last week. We stopped at verse 18. Today, we pick right up in verse 19. 1 John chapter 3, verses 19-24.

What was the point of last week’s sermon?

Three words: Love. Your. Brother.

Real Christians love their spiritual siblings.

In fact, John said that we know who are the children of God by whether or not they love their brothers!

And we know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers.

We know what love is because Jesus showed us what it is. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

Love your brothers.

Verse 18: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

Love your brothers. That’s what John is still talking about as he finishes chapter 3.

I have a confession to make:  These six verses have been, for me, the hardest passage to understand in 1 John so far.

They sound wonderful and are filled with glorious truth, but John likes to wind his way around a thought, weaving his words in and out, and sometimes he’s hard to follow.

Like here.

But I’ve prayed to the Lord and wrestled with John this week, and tried to follow him on his winding path through these glorious ideas.

And I’d like to show you what I’ve found.

It starts with a problem.

Here it is.

PROBLEM: OUR HEARTS CONDEMN US.

We’ve been learning about Essential Christianity from 1 John.  John has been telling us what is essential to be and to believe to be a Christian.

And, recently, we’ve been learning that we must not just talk the talk but walk the walk.

The Children of God live obedient lives. They purify themselves because their God is pure. God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.

So, they obey God, and when they do they get assurance that they are the children of God.

Moreover, they love their brothers and sisters in Christ.

It’s essential. Real Christians love their spiritual siblings.

We’ve seen that, haven’t we?  V.18 again.

“Dear children, let us not love with words and tongue but with actions and in the truth.”

And then he says, v.19, “This then is how we know that we belong to the truth...”

How? If we love with actions and in the truth, then we belong to the truth. We are “of the truth.”

If we walk the walk, then we know that we’re real.

However...

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always FEEL like I’m real.

I look at my feeble attempts to love my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I have questions and doubts...about me. And concerns and fears and worries.

My heart starts to say:

“Who do you think you are?”
“Who do you think you’re fooling?
“Do you think you measure up?”
“Do you think you love enough?”
“Do you think you obey Jesus enough?”
“Are you really saved?”

My heart starts to condemn me.

Now, you may say, “That’s Satan!” and you’re right. The accuser is right there feeding these things to my heart.

But it’s my heart, too.

My heart can condemn me. My conscience, a part of my heart, can condemn me.

And I start to worry about whether or not I am real.

Because I don’t FEEL real.

And I worry if I’m accepted by God.
And I worry if I’m acceptable to God.
And I worry if God will accept me someday when Jesus returns.

Do you ever feel like that?

Your heart condemns you?

I was amazed this week, when I realized that the Apostle John sometimes felt like that!

He says “we” here!  Not just “you,” but “we...us.”  John was in the same boat.

And he had an answer.

And that answer is the point of this message and its title:  “God is Greater Than Our Hearts.”

ANSWER: GOD IS GREATER THAN OUR HEARTS.

Say that with me.  “God is Greater Than Our Hearts.”

Kids, ask your parents today at the dinner table what the point of today’s message was.  And they will say, “God is Greater Than Our Hearts.”

And then you ask them what does that mean?

I mean, it’s obvious “God is Greater Than Our Hearts.” Who would have thought that our hearts were greater than God?

Well, sometimes, especially when our hearts say one thing and God says another, that’s exactly how we act.

We act as if our hearts are greater than God.

But that’s not the case.

God is Greater Than Our Hearts.

Let’s follow John’s winding path. V.19 again.

“This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”

See if you can follow me in this argument.

Sometimes we wonder if we belong to the truth. Are we for real?

And John says that we know that we are real, that we belong to the truth if we love our brothers (like we saw last week).

And that sets our hearts at rest in God’s presence whenever our hearts rise up to condemn us.

We say to our hearts, “Be quiet. Be still, my heart. I know that I love my brother, so sit down and be at rest.”

See that?

But...do our hearts always take “no” for an answer? 

No, sometimes, they rise up and say, “You don’t love your brother! You don’t obey the truth. You don’t belong to Jesus. You’re not good enough.”

Now, in that moment, what do you do?

Whom are you going to listen to?

Your heart or your God?

Which one is greater?

V.20 “For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”

He knows everything.

He knows what your heart is telling you.
He knows how you feel at that particular moment.
He knows that you don’t feel real at that particular moment.

And more than that. He knows what is real, no matter how it feels.

He knows that you have genuine love for your brother and sister in Christ.

Not perfect love! But genuine love.
He knows that you have purified yourself and are fighting sin.
Not perfectly, but truly.

He knows. God knows. He knows everything.

So, who are you going to believe?

Your heart that rises up to condemn or your God who rises up to assure?

God Is Greater Than Your Heart.

This is a message that is 180 degrees different from the message of popular culture.

Every movie out there in the world says, “Follow Your Heart!”

“Just follow your heart!”
“Listen to your heart and do what it says.”

That’s terrible advice.

Don’t follow your heart. Follow God.

God is greater than our hearts. And He knows everything.

He knows that you don’t measure up.
He knows that your love is partial and immature.
He knows that your attempts at obedience are just that, attempts, not perfection.

But He knows that His Son died for you and that you believe in Him and that you have experienced true change in your heart and life.

He knows.

And He speaks a better word.

He speaks a word of grace.
He speaks a word of mercy.
He speaks a word of truth.

And our job is to listen and believe.

Because God is greater than our hearts.

Say that with me again. “God is greater than our hearts.”

Do you believe that?

God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.
But God is also greater than our hearts. And He knows everything.

What does that do?

Here’s the result.

Our Hearts Condemn Us
But God is Greater Than Our Hearts and We Believe Him

RESULT: A CONFIDENT CHRISTIAN LIFE. V.21

“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.”

Isn’t that great?

So, if we believe God (who is greater than our hearts) and our hearts give up trying to condemn us, then we have CONFIDENCE before God.

Isn’t that a wonderful thing?

Confidence before God.

Fearing God but not afraid of God.
Worshiping God but not worried about God.
Trusting God but not terrified of God.

Confidence before God.

And if you have confidence before God, what do you naturally do?

You pray.

And God answers.

V.21 again, “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask.”

That sounds a lot like Hebrews 4:16 to me.

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with [... what? ... ] confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

We receive from Him anything we ask.

Now, we’ll talk more about receiving in prayer when we get to 1 John 5.

Obviously, John does not mean that God becomes our genie in a bottle and gives us all of our wishes.

But he does mean that God answers our confident prayers.

What have you prayed for recently?

I find that my heart often gets in the way of my prayers.

My heart can be so restless, so unbelieving, so fearful that I’m not acceptable and not accepted in the presence of God.

I’m learning that what my heart needs is to be put at rest. I need to tell my heart that God is greater and more believable than it is. And that He knows everything.

So, I can trust Him with my prayer requests. I can be bold.

I can be confident before God and ask.

And receive.

Just recently, I’ve had 2 major answers to prayer requests. The kind where you didn’t really expect God to do it, but you asked for it and trusted that He could do it if He wanted to, and then He did!

I can be confident before God and ask.

And receive.

This is because I am a genuine Christian. V.22

“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.”

That’s a picture of the confident Christian life.

A confident Christian obeys God’s commands and does the things that pleases God.

Not perfectly. Not always.

But genuinely. Truly.

And what, you might ask, pleases God? What are his commands?  V.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.”

One command in two parts here.

First part: Believe. Put your faith in Jesus Christ who died and rose again.

Second part: Love one another like Jesus said to.

Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”

And if you do that, you are living the confident Christian life.

So, are you doing those things?

Have you put your faith in Jesus Christ?

It all starts there.

I invite you to do that right now, today. Don’t wait for a better time.

Don’t put it off.

“This is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.”

Do it.

And love your brother as he commanded us.

And if you do those things, you will live the confident Christian life.

And that life is a shared life with God! Get this v.24

“Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them.”

I’m not sure I understand all of what that means, but I sure like the sound of it!

“Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them.”

I live in God and God lives in me.

Wow!

How do I know that’s happening?

Is there a weird feeling?

V.24 again.

“Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. [Are you obeying?] And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”

We listen to God the Holy Spirit.

And God the Holy Spirit is greater than our hearts.

He whispers to us something much more true that what our condemning hearts might say.

He says, “You are God’s child through faith in Jesus Christ, and you love your brothers.”

“You are real.”

“God loves you.”

“No matter how it feels, you are real.”

Paul said it this way in Romans 8:

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.”

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.”

And God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Be Confident, Christian!

Listen to and believe the Spirit who lives inside of you.

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.”

No matter how it feels, you are real.

Because God is greater than our hearts.




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