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...1 John 3:19-20
On the phrase
whenever our hearts condemn us, the apostle John is recognizing that the problem we face is that of a condemning heart. He suggests here in this phrase that this is a rather frequent and often involuntary experience on our part. Who of us as a Christian has not had trouble with a bad conscience or a condemning heart? There are physical problems that affect us spiritually, but all too often this is the result of an attack of the evil one upon our faith, an attempt to try to dislodge us from faith in Jesus Christ, to annul our effectiveness as Christians. And all too often this attack succeeds.
Perhaps there is nothing more common than this problem—Christians who are suffering from a bad conscience, a condemning heart. Sometimes these attacks come upon us in the midst of our most spiritual moods, catching us when we least expect.
What is the remedy? Look at what John says. We must
know that we belong to the truth. That is the essential thing. We must reestablish the great fact of our relationship to Christ. We must have ground for believing and reassuring ourselves that we are indeed justified by faith, standing in God's presence not by our own righteousness but by the righteousness of the Son of God, that we are accepted in the Beloved, that we are
in Christ, because, as Paul tells us in Romans 8,
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). If we are going to silence the doubts of our hearts, we must know that we
belong to the truth.
How do you do that? Notice his argument here.
This then is how we know that we belong to the truth. We must know that we belong to the truth in order to reassure our condemning hearts, and how do we do it? By this! By what? What he has just mentioned in verse 18.
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue [only] but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:18). By this we will reassure our hearts by the knowledge that we are of the truth. He is referring here to an act of love; that is, we deliberately and with specific intent do a kind and helpful deed or speak a loving word to the one who has injured us or caused us to be plunged into this morass of condemnation.
Return good for evil, in other words.
You do not have to wait until you are forced to be nice to somebody. Do it deliberately. Set yourself to the task of finding others in need and helping them out.
Let us not love in word and tongue but with actions and in truth. It has been a joy to see how many times these words have proved true. People have discovered that much of the loneliness and emptiness of their lives was simply a result of shutting themselves away from the needs of others. As soon as they began to minister to another's life, they discovered that there was an accompanying wonderful sense of reassurance and an awakening of the spirit of joy in their own hearts.
Grant to us, Lord, to find the lonely and the distressed and to encourage them and share something of ourselves with them, that we might thus express this kind of love. By this shall we know that we are of the truth.
When we suffer loneliness, a guilty conscience, or our hearts feel pressured with condemnation, how do we avail ourselves the joy & healing power of His Presence?