Exploring 1 John Session 22 1 John 3:19-24

 Exploring 1 John Session 22 1 John 3:19-24

 I have found comfort in what we will explore today in Session 22 of our series in the letter of 1 John.  A condemning heart is one that is constantly sending messages of inadequacy to you.  A guilty conscience constantly reminds you of shortcomings and the sins you chose to commit, whispering that you can never overcome the past. These troubling thoughts can plague you in your spiritual journey.  Those messages of insufficiency steal your joy, your peace, and your confidence. God’s gift to you as His child is forgiveness and empowerment to do better, to be better, to walk from now on in the light.  John is going to reveal to us how we can put these negative notions to rest.

 Before we go exploring have you asked God to become His Child?  If not then today can be the day you step out of spiritual darkness and into spiritual light.  Today you can get a new start in life.  Today you can be redeemed and reconciled to God.  Today you can call God your Father and Jesus your friend.  Just ask me how, and I will tell you of the well-worn path that leads to a right relationship with God, to being born again, to becoming new.

 1 John 3:19-24 (MSG)

This is the only way we'll know we're living truly, living in God's reality. It's also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.

 21 And friends, once that's taken care of and we're no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we're bold and free before God! We're able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we're doing what he said, doing what pleases him. Again, this is God's command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us.

 The way we know we are living in God’s reality is because we love our brothers and sisters in Christ.  That love is tangible, that love is observable, that love encourages the recipient.  We also know that our love for God is expressed in our obedience to His commands, living for the Kingdom instead of living for self. 

 Debilitating self-criticism has been a problem for me because of my growing up circumstances.  When my parents divorced my father just wasn’t in my life anymore.  That’s a hard thing to deal with when you are 8 years old.  Dad loved me before, Dad took me places, Dad showed me things, Dad introduced me to his friends, and then, no dad.  In an 8-year-olds mind, you think, what did I do?  If I was better then dad would still be around.  There must be something wrong with me.  Confirming these thoughts was a grandmother who let me know it was my fault that my parents got divorced.  These experiences set me up for rejection coupled with a quest for perfection.  If I am good enough I’ll be accepted and wanted, I’ll fit in.  What a trap, you become your own worst critique.  I became too hard on myself, judging myself as unlovable.  I kept trying to fit in, to be accepted, to be loved.  So those were the thoughts that were constantly stealing the gifts of love, acceptance, belonging, and approval that God was giving.  Those thoughts were joy suckers.

 The congregation John was writing to needed assurance that they were on the right path.  Doubts are natural, especially when you feel you haven’t measured up to your own standards let alone God’s standards of righteousness and holiness, especially when things are not going well for you, especially when you are afraid of the very questions you are asking, especially when someone else tells you it’s because your theology is wrong.  You wonder, “is this for real?”  “am I right with God?” “am I OK?” “are my beliefs right?”  John tells us that God is greater than our thoughts about ourselves and that if we are loving God and loving others, it’s all good.  God knows you.  The scriptures reveal that He knows your thoughts before you think them (Psalm 139:4).  He knows your back story, even your way back story of your ancestry, and how your family tree did affect you (Psalm 139). God knows the reasons for your weak points, for the areas you struggle in, that are so often hidden from you (Psalm 19:12-14). He takes it all into account.  Jesus is your advocate, the one who speaks up for you.  If Jesus is on your side, you can put your worried heart to rest (Hebrews 4:14-16).

 Psalms 130:3-4 (MSG)

If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings, who would stand a chance?  As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that's why you're worshiped.

 Psalms 103:11-12 (MSG)

As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him. And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins.

 The way you put your worried heart to rest is to stop judging yourself (1 Corinthians 4:3).  Take your eyes off of you (Hebrews 12:2) and focus on loving God and loving others.  If the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin, then 1 John 1:9 it (John 16:8-9).  You’ve got doubts?  Faith is keeping on keeping despite the doubts.  Even when the preponderance of evidence suggests that you have a false hope to keep exercising faith by loving God and loving people.  A lyric in a Keith Green song reads “Just do your best, pray that its blest and let Jesus take care of the rest” (He’ll Take Care of the Rest, 1977).  Stop judging yourself and let God love you.  He will love you through the congregation, God with skin on.  That’s why you need the congregation.  You need the congregation’s affirmation.  No more pressure to measure up to unattainable standards artificially set by the lies that you have believed.  No more hanging your head, no more isolating yourself, no more hiding, no more believing you have disqualified yourself. 

 1 John 3:21

21 And friends, once that's taken care of and we're no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we're bold and free before God!

 You have been empowered to live bold and free before God.  Boldness is the opposite of fearfulness, it’s anti-timidity.  Boldness is what happened when you took a risk.  Boldness can involve a certain type of recklessness, a certain type of nerve, a way of being adventurous.  Free.  Say this with me please: God has set me free.

 Verse 21 leads us to verse 22 which has caused me a lot of problems over the years because I always took it out of context.  Let’s do that. Let’s take the verse out of context and simply ask “what does this mean?” 

 1 John 3:22 (NIV)

“…and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.”

 Out of context, this verse must mean that if we are doing right, we can ask for what we want and God will give it to us.  So if you don’t get what you asked for it is either because you are not living a righteous life or not doing what pleases God, you don’t have enough faith.  I suspect many believers have stumbled over this scripture, baffled as to why God doesn’t give them the good thing they ask for.  I suspect some have even given up on the faith because God didn’t do what they wanted and they were sure they were living a devout and holy life.  This kind of interpretation is incorrect: “if I’m good God gives me what I want.”

 In context, the verse is telling us that whatever we need to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, whatever we need to do God’s commands, all we have to do is ask and it is ours.  Ask boldly to love and every resource and opportunity you need to do so is yours.  That interpretation helps me understand why I have never won the lotto and why the miracles I asked for never came. 

 The interpretation emphasizing that God gives you the resources you need to love to the fullest also sheds light on John 14:13

 John 14:13 (NIV)

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.

 We can take that out of context and run into a lot of disappointment.  The Message paraphrase gives us a better understanding:

 John 14:13 (MSG)

From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I'll do it. That's how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it.

 Boldly ask to love, to bring love, to manifest love and God gives you all you need to do be love so that you can fulfill His commands.  Boldly ask to take care of Kingdom business, to bring justice and equity, hope and encouragement to your community and it is yours.  I encourage you to ask boldly that all your needs are meet, for safety, for health and well-being, but I cannot assure you that such gifts will be given. 

 1 John 3:23

23 Again, this is God's command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. 24 As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us.

 Believe and love, that’s God’s command.  When we love God and love others these actions cause us to live deeply in God and allows God to live deeply in us.  Remember John is writing to assure the congregation that they understand the gospel correctly.  The test is simple.  Ask yourself: “is my love tangible, can others see the love in what I do?” (James 2:18)

 When we look for assurance of our right standing with God, our salvation, it is our behavior and the witness of the Spirit that gives us all the assurance we need.  The witness of the Spirit is both inward and outward.  The inward witness is the Spirit confirming to us that we are God’s child, that we are living our lives to the full, that we are devout and holy followers of Christ (Romans 8:16).  We are convinced that we are reconciled to God.  The outward witness is our deeds of love, that anyone can see, that anyone can testify to, that some other can testify of (Galatians 5:22-23).  The inward and outward witness of the Spirit assures us that we are on the path of transformation, that we are walking in the light, shining in the night, that we are becoming more like Jesus.

 What to do with that troubling conscience? What to do with self-condemnation?  You must first discern if the thoughts you are experiencing are the conviction of the Holy Spirit or the condemnation of your egoism.  If it is a conviction, the Holy Spirit is bringing to your attention a problem that you are now being empowered to overcome.  Conviction awakens us to a need to change something in our lives.  That path to change and victory begins with the conviction, then self-exploration, then 1 John 1:9 it.  Then appropriate the power to overcome by choosing to be a lover of God and others.

 If you discern that the thoughts are condemnation then you first name the situation, name the circumstance, call into mind the incident of which you are now ashamed, the one you now regret.  I’ve done this plenty of times.  Then examine the incident, imagine with the wisdom you have now, imagine how you would have handled the situation differently; handled it righteously.  If you owe a debt, repay it.  If you’ve given offense, humbly ask to be forgiven. If you did wrong, make it right (Matthew 5:23-24).  Then you 1 John 1:9 it, and ask God to give you release.  A powerful way to feel that release is to confess to a trusted mature spiritual friend. 

 James 5:16 (MSG)

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.

 To hear a servant of God whom you have great respect to declare that you are forgiven is powerfully liberating. 

 Use the empowerment and resources God has given you to put down debilitating self-criticism.  When you do you will walk lighter in the light.  You will shine brighter with the light because you are abiding ever more deeply in God.

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