Scripture References: 1 John 3:11-24
Christian Love (1 John 3:18–24) – Continued
John names three wonderful blessings that will come to a believer who practices Christian love.
Assurance (verses 19–20). A believer’s relationship with others affects his relationship with God. A man who is not right with his brother should go settle the matter before he offers his sacrifice on the altar (Matthew 5:23–24). A Christian who practices love grows in his understanding of God’s truth and enjoys a heart filled with confidence before God.
A “condemning heart” is one that robs a believer of peace. An “accusing conscience” is another way to describe it. Sometimes the heart accuses us wrongly, because it “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” – Jeremiah 17:9. The answer to that question is, “God knows the heart!” More than one Christian has accused himself falsely, or been harder on himself than necessary; but God will never make such a mistake. A Christian who walks in love has a heart open to God (“God is love”) and knows that God never judges wrongly.
John may have remembered two incidents from Jesus’ life on earth that illustrate this important principle. When Jesus visited Bethany, He stayed at the home of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38–42). Martha was busy preparing the meal, but Mary sat at His feet and listened to Him teach. Martha criticized both Mary and Jesus, but Jesus knew Mary’s heart and defended her.
The Apostle Peter wept bitterly after he had denied his Lord, and no doubt he was filled with remorse and repentance for his sin. But Jesus knew that Peter had repented, and after His resurrection the Lord sent a special message (Mark 16:7) to Peter that must have assured the hot-headed fisherman that he was forgiven. Peter’s heart may have condemned him, for he knew he had denied the Lord three times, but God was greater than his heart. Jesus, knowing all things, gave Peter just the assurance he needed.
Be careful that the devil may accuse you and rob you of your confidence (Revelation 12:10). Once you confess your sin and it is forgiven, you don’t need to allow it to accuse you anymore. Peter was able to face the Jews and say, “But you denied the Holy One and the Just!” (Acts 3:14) because his own sin of denying Christ had been taken care of and was forgiven and forgotten.
No Christian should treat sin lightly, but no Christian should be harder on himself than God is. There is a morbid kind of self-examination and self-condemnation that is not spiritual. If you are practicing genuine love for the brethren, your heart must be right before God, for the Holy Spirit would not “pour out” His love in you if there were habitual sin in your heart. When you grieve the Spirit, you essentially separate yourself from the supply of God’s love (Ephesians 4:30–5:2).
Answered prayer (verses 21–22). Love for the brethren produces confidence toward God, and confidence toward God gives you boldness in asking for what you need. This does not mean that you earn answers to prayer by loving the brethren. Rather, it means that your love for the brethren proves that you are living in the will of God where God can answer your prayer. “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments” (1 John 3:22). Love is the fulfilling of God’s Law (Romans 13:8–10); therefore, when you love the brethren, you are obeying His commandments and He is able to answer your requests.
A believer’s relationship to the brethren cannot be divorced from his prayer life. If husbands and wives are not obeying God’s Word, for example, their prayers will be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).
These verses do not, of course, give us all the conditions for answered prayer, but they emphasize the importance of obedience. One great secret of answered prayer is obedience, and the secret of obedience is love. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” – John 14:15.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. . . . If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love.” – John 15:7, 10.
It is possible, of course, to keep God’s commandments in a spirit of fear or servitude rather than in a spirit of love. This was the sin of the elder brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:24–32). A believer should keep His Father’s commandments because this pleases Him. A Christian who lives to please God will discover that God finds ways to please His child. “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4. When our delight is in the love of God, our desires will be in the will of God.
To Be Continued