Does your heart condemn you with guilt, shame, or malice? Thankfully, God’s understanding of us is greater than what others or even we believe about ourselves.
“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
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Transcript: Hi, welcome to Five Minutes With Pastor Lutzer. So glad that you have joined us today, I believe that we are gonna be edified by God’s Word as we contemplate the omniscience of God. And at all times we are led to worship; we are lead to be rebuked at times; we are edified—but always, our knowledge of God must be expanded as we consider Him.
The text of Scripture today is taken from 1st John chapter 3—I am picking it up at verse 19. “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our hearts before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” When you and I are asked to confess our sins, it’s not so that we are telling God something that He didn’t know. God is asking us to admit to the truth that He already knows, because He knows everything.
But specifically, what is John talking about? He says, “if our hearts condemn us.” Let’s pause there for just a moment. Do you have a condemning heart? You know, if you were brought up in a very abusive home, or you were belittled, you can grow up with this feeling of worthlessness; you can have a heart that condemns you. Oftentimes, because of false guilt.
Sometimes our heart also condemns us because of real guilt. It’s things that we have done, and it’s the regrets. But here’s the truth I want you to ponder: what John is saying is, even though our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts.
You know how I interpret that? I understand that to say that God’s opinion of us is more important than the opinion of ourselves, or even the opinion of a hurting, condemning heart. You have heard me say it before, but feelings are not facts. What we have to be willing to do is to go with God’s assessment rather than our own faulty assessment. If you’re a believer, and you have come to Jesus Christ, you have an inheritance in this life, and that is that your heart not condemn you.
You know, years ago I memorized that passage of Scripture from Romans chapter 8, and have used it many, many times. “Who shall lay any charge to God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died. Yea, rather that is risen again, and is even now on the right hand of the throne of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”
Well, who can condemn us? Possibly a spouse can condemn us, parents can condemn us, the courts can condemn us. All kinds of condemnation can come to us, but if God is the one who has vindicated us, we can be free from that condemnation because John says God is greater than our hearts.
Many of you know that I have more than simply a passing interest in Martin Luther. I don’t agree with everything that Luther taught; certainly not everything that he said. But his insights oftentimes are just so helpful. Here’s a man by the name of Spalatin, who comes to Luther and says, “You know, I can’t forgive myself. I have a condemning heart.” Apparently Spalatin had given some bad advice to somebody, so he comes to Luther, tells him that. And Luther says this, and of course I’m paraphrasing, I don’t have the actual quote before me. By the way, how would the average counselor handle that? Today, we’d say, “Well, Spalatin, y’know, it’s no big deal. We’ve all given bad advice. We’ve all messed up… y’know. Accept God’s forgiveness and move on.”
Luther does not minimize Spalatin’s sin like we would be tempted to do. But what Luther does is, he expands our understanding of grace. “You have a condemning heart? God is greater than your heart because God knows everything.” What Luther says, in effect, is this: “Spalatin! You have to get over the idea that Jesus just died for childish, nominal sins. Oh, no, Spalatin. We have a Savior who died for damnable iniquities.” Luther magnified grace in the presence of sin.
And this passage of Scripture reminds us of this, that if your heart condemns you, God is greater than you heart, God knows absolutely everything, and we should take His verdict as to who we are, rather than the verdict of our fluctuating emotions, and our self-condemnation. God knows everything; He still loves us, even though He knows it all, and He is with us. And let us always remember that who we are is dependent upon what God says about us, and not the condemnation that we may feel in our hearts.
Thanks so much for joining us today. Hope that you join us again next time, and as for today, go with God.