Summary: Although many of our struggles as followers of Jesus are with the world, the flesh, and the devil, sometimes they are about monitoring our inner affections and deep seated thoughts.
Our Subjective Spiritual Struggles: They Matter
(I John 3:19-24, 4:7-21)
1. Today I begin my message with some comments about modern art.
It’s easy to understand modern art. If it hangs on a wall, it’s a painting. If you can walk around it, it’s a sculpture.
How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb? Two. One to hold the giraffe and the other to fill the bathtub with brightly colored machine tools.
2. Seriously, our tastes in music, drama, literature, or art can be quite subjective.
Five men are at an art museum together. They view a painting with many colors simply brushed alongside other colors with no discernible image. One man is disturbed about a painting because it suggests that life is meaningless and random. The second man likes the painting because he agrees with its message, that everything is meaningless. A third person doesn’t carry about philosophies of life, but likes the painting because it is creative. A fourth person dislikes it, but doesn’t know why. He just does. The fifth person doesn’t like any art, but came to visits with his friends.
3. Christ died to atone for sin, that is objective. That I have put my faith in Jesus Christ and am now saved is a subjective evaluation of my inner workings. We all have in to live in a world that includes the subjective, ours and everyone else’s.
4. This text gave me a subjective struggled, and I tried to figure out the best way to present it. The problem: written as a casual letter/sermon, not an organized treatise. Repetition is good in a letter to reinforce points, but it can make expository preaching rough.
5. My decision: allude to later portions that expand the themes we are looking at today in chapter 3, and then, later, address the unique things within those portions to avoid preaching the same sermon over again. This was a very subjective struggle on my part.
Main Idea: Although many of our struggles as followers of Jesus are with the world, the flesh, and the devil, sometimes they are about monitoring our inner affections and deep seated thoughts.
I. Our Struggle for CONFIDENCE before God (20-21)
A. If we never have this struggle, perhaps we do not have an APPROPIATE perspective about Who God is and who we are.
1. The person who walks in darkness may not question whether his conscience is clear before God, but a believer, who is sensitive to his own unworthiness, struggles.
2. Titus 1:15b, “... both their minds and their consciences are defiled.”
3. Since believers understands that God is holy and is not the man upstairs, they know the difference between presumption, false humility, and the reality of our condition.
4. But believers also know that they are accepted in the beloved and I John 1:9.
B. The context is when we are in a crisis and are approaching God in PRAYER.
• The future tense, “we shall know” suggests a future time when we need to know.
C. Our heart needs frequent internal PERSUASION that we are free to approach God.
1. Greek word, peiqw word best translated as “persuade, convince, set to rest.”
2. This refers to our self talk; we talk to ourselves all the time.
3. Psalm 53:1, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
D. It is in God’s PRESENCE that truth comes to light and we realize the boldness with which we may approach the throne.
1. When Satan appears in the book of Job, he appears before God, because he has to.
2. We enter the presence of God in prayer and evaluation before the Lord.
3. We evaluate imperfectly. I Corinthians 4:4, “For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.”
II. Our Struggle to TRUST God to Answer Our Prayers (22-24a, also 4:7-12, 14-21)
A. In two chapters, John will add an UNDERSTOOD caveat.
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us...” I John 5:14
B. The idea is that when we walk in OBEDIENCE, our wills are shaped in God’s direction.
Ben Witherington III comments, “Thus we must not take I John 3:22 to mean that prayer is some magical thing by which one can twist god's arm, forcing him to carry out some human wish that he would be otherwise likely to do, something against his plan or timing or even the divine will absolutely… it is clear that one can ask for any good thing that will help the petitioner to advance the work of mission. The point is that the who obeys God and does what pleases the Father is likely in direct contact with God's will. Since one is abiding in God, one is unlikely to ask for anything that God would not be delighted to do. Yet even the believer’s obedience does not force God to answer yes to a prayer, for God owes us nothing. God acts freely according to his grace. His answers are the loving gifts of a Father, not debts paid for services rendered or rewards owed.”