Today’s Scripture puts an exclamation point on the end of our last passage: “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 Jn 3:18) When we love in deed and truth, then we know where we stand. “And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” (1 Jn 3:19-20)
With the phrase “if our heart condemns us”, the apostle John is recognizing that a problem we face is that of a condemning heart. He suggests here in this phrase that it’s a rather frequent and often involuntary experience on our part. Who of us as a Christian has not had trouble with a bad conscience, a condemning heart, or shame? 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 and shame. Sometimes these attacks come upon us in the midst of our most spiritual moods, catching us when we least expect. The enemy wages his battle for shame in our minds, knowing it will keep us at a distance from the Lord. Our emotions are directly linked to our thought patterns. If we feel shame, we need to look at our thoughts: are they “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable and praiseworthy”? Or are they burdened with guilt, shame and regret? Shame and guilt aren’t God’s intention for our lives. They point us to Christ, who came to remove our shame. If we have repented of anything that would separate us from God, we need to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.
What is the remedy? Look at what John says. We must “know that we are of the truth”. That’s essential: we must keep our relationship with Christ active, remind ourselves that we are “in Christ” and Christ is in us. 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. And as such: “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom 8:1). If we are going to silence the doubts of our hearts, we must “know that we are of the truth”.
In order to reassure our condemning hearts, we must stand in the truth of God’s Word, and stand firm in the authority of Christ. Standing in Christ’s authority, we can love one another in more than words, but in deeds and truth. Love is a verb and it performs an action. 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.
We don’t have to wait until we’re forced to be nice to somebody, but instead look for ways to do it deliberately; setting ourselves to the task of finding others in need and helping them out. “Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
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. “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38)
Lord, grant me Your eyes to see others as You do, to have the desire and ability to encourage the lonely and distressed You put in my path, so that I can express Your love through my actions. Lord, even when I fail, You know my heart and You know that I am Your child, one who all-too-frequently fails. Lord thank You for Your grace, and another opportunity to share Your love with others. Lord thank You for putting Jesus’s righteousness on me, so that I am no longer condemned. Lord whenever that thought creeps into my mind that I should be ashamed, please send Your Holy Spirit to remind me that I am a child of the Living King. Lord, search my heart and show me any area where I need to repent so that I will be assured that I am walking in the way of truth.