For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. (I John 3:20-21)
Reading this verse I can’t help but wonder how can my heart could ever not condemn me.
Searching the heart can be unpleasant, even mortifying if you get to much into it, which I try not to. Not because I’m against self-examination, but because any honest look at my heart reveals a mixture of good and putrid.
On one hand, the love of Christ has been shed abroad there (Romans 5:5) and, for sure, I can see some good. But I also see bitterness, arrogance, violence, and sloth floating around that old internal cesspool. So on my best of days, my heart can still condemn me by displaying attitudes and tendencies that are ungodly in the extreme. And that’s on my good days.
This is especially problematic when I have decisions to make. I want to know that, to the best of my ability, I’m acting with integrity. I’m also aware that my integrity is never pure, 100% grade-A stuff. There’s a mixed bag of motivations going on every time I counsel, speak, write, breathe. Some of them are noble, as in, I want God’s will done in the lives of my hearers, I want to see impact for the kingdom, I genuinely care. Good stuff.
Other motivators I see are much baser, as in, I want to look good, I want to impress, I want to be amazing. So my heart has pure elements to it, thank God, but it’s never been without significant, visible, and persistent impurities. Thereby, to some extent, it always accuses me.
That drives me back to verse 20 above, a reliable place of refuge and hope: God is greater than my heart and knows all things!
A few of those “all things” I like to keep in mind:
- He knows my frame, remembering that I’m dust and pitying me in the process. (Psalms 103:14)
- He knows what it’s like to be tempted. (Hebrews 4:15)
- He knows the final outcome of my life and sees me, when this is all over, complete in Him, seated at the right hand of the Father. (Ephesians 2:6)
Knowing this and more, He shows me a more gentle, compassionate attitude than I would show myself. He knows all my sins have been paid for and has no interest in tallying them up (Psalms 32:2) and He can therefore see me as I cannot see myself – complete, justified, even glorified. (Romans 8:30) He doesn’t condemn me, not because He’s a really nice God who overlooks sin, but because He’s systematically, technically and thoroughly judged my sins in Christ and can rightfully see me without them, within Him.
My own heart condemns me only because of my limited view of myself. I’ve got part of the picture right, in that I see the sewage. Other parts of it I can only glimpse briefly, looking through a glass darkly and barely able to conceptualize the wonderful, holy concept that I am complete in Him. (Colossians 2:10)
Which only proves our need for the Holy Spirit to do just what Jesus said He would do, by shining more light on those “glass darkly” parts. Our hearts are made bolder when they’ve been guided into the truth of our completion in Him, the work He’s done-does-will do, and His delight in both it, and in us.
When truths like that are made clearer to us, and when we’re given the faith to receive them, our hearts can rest and throb pretty soundly. Confident but not cocky before Him, we can sing along with Knewall:
By God’s grace at last my sin I learned,
Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned.
‘Till my guilty soul, imploring, turned to Calvary.
Mercy there was great and grace was free.
Pardon there was multiplied to me.
There my burdened soul found liberty