Summary: John calls us to take inventory.
John calls us through-out this book, to grow in God's love. Paul prayed:
"I pray that your life will be strong in love and be built on love. And I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love—how wide, how long, how high, and how deep that love is. Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with everything God has for you." - Ephesians 3:17b-19 (Easy to Read)
In our text, John has us "look things over," and examine our daily walk with God. Let's consider what he has to say.
1. Looking In - vs. 19-21 - Am I walking in God's forgiveness?
There are two heart conditions the Christian can experience.
A. The Condemning Heart - vs. 19-20a
The believer has a condemning heart when he is guilty of sin. Undealt with sin causes our hearts to be condemned by guilt. John says that condemnation in the heart of the Christian when he sins is something that assures us we "belong to the truth" and are genuinely saved.
B. The Confidant Heart - vs. 20b- 21
God's wants us to have a confident heart. How do we gain a confident heart? By responding appropriately when our heart condemns us. How do we do that? By turning to God for cleansing. This is why John means when he says "God is greater than our hearts." No matter how burdened our heart may be, God can lift that guilt from our heart.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." - 1 John 1:9 (NIV)
God is justified in forgiving us because the cross covers all our sin.
In the Old Testament, Israel worshiped in the tabernacle; and in the holy of holies was the ark of the covenant. In it, among other things, were stone tablets with the ten commandments on them. They reminded the people of their failures before God. But on top of the ark was a slab of pure gold, known as the mercy seat. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would offer a sacrifice for the sins of the people and would sprinkle the blood of that sacrifice on the Mercy Seat. The mercy seat symbolized the ultimate sacrifice of Calvary. Now, the Mercy Seat completely covered the ark. It was as long as the ark was long; and as wide as the ark was wide. This was intended to illustrate that no matter how great our sin, God's grace and mercy are just as great, just as wide.
"He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." - Psalm 103:10-12 (HCSB)
As you look in, do you find that you are walking in the forgiveness of God? Learning to appropriate God's forgiveness is a key element in knowing His love, for each time you involve yourself in confessing sin and claiming God's cleansing, you are brought afresh to the foot of the cross, which is the greatest demonstration ever of God's love for us.
Daily, we should involve ourselves in the discipline of confession. As we do, we grow more deeply in our appreciation of the love of God.
2. Looking Up - vs. 21-22 - Am I walking in the fellowship of God?
If my heart doesn't condemn me, I can take it by faith that I am within God's will when I come to Him in prayer. Walking in the forgiveness of God, makes it possible for me to walk in the fellowship of God; and through that fellowship, He can communicate to me, through His Spirit, about those things He wants me to approach Him about in prayer.
It is through prayer that I can grow more and more to appreciate God's love for me, as in response to His spirit, I partner with God, learning not just what things to pray for, but how to pray for things.
I have often mentioned the four levels of growth in prayer: Level 1: Imitation; Level 2: Initiation; Level 3: Intercession; and Level 4: Interaction. Let's talk about this highest level of prayer.
"Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass." - Psalm 37:4-5 (NKJV)