Wednesday, July 29, 2009

7/29- I John 3:19-22 Prayer and a Guilty Conscience

(OJ Simpson- Maybe a guilty face?)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.
7/29- I John 3:19- 22

19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.

Calvin abridged: 3:9 “This is how we know that we belong to the truth”- “truth” is taken differently than in the previous verse. If we truly love our neighbors, we have proof that we are born of God- who is truth, and that the truth of God lives inside of us. But we should remember that this proof of love is not the same as knowledge of God and does not bring the certainty of salvation. The only real knowledge of our salvation and adoption is by his Spirit. Love is an accessory or an inferior aid, a prop to our faith, not a foundation on which our faith rests. Why then does the Apostle say, “we set our hearts at rest in his presence?” In this he reminds us that faith does not exist without a good conscience; A genuine assurance cannot be obtained unless his Spirit produces in us the fruit of love. No one should conclude that we must look to our works in order that our assurance of salvation may be certain.
3:20- “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” On the other hand, if we say we are Christians, but do not have a good conscience we are foolish. For if anyone cannot escape the guilt of their conscience, how can they escape the judgment of God? Faith is undermined by the uneasiness of a guilty conscience. Paul says that though he was not conscious of his wrongs, that doesn’t mean he was justified (I Cor. 4:4); for though we are attentive to our lives, we miss many things, and we are ignorant of mistakes that God perceives. So John follows this with “God knows everything.” How can those things be hidden from God which we (who in comparison with God are dull and blind) can see? Since the knowledge of God penetrates deeper than what our consciences see, no one can stand before him unless the integrity of his conscience sustains them. Someone may raise the question about the reprobate who are sometimes sunk into such a stupor by Satan that they are no longer conscious of their own evils, and without alarm or fear (as Paul says) rush into sin and destruction. Hypocrites also flatter themselves and disregard the judgment of God. Hypocrites are made drunk by their false conceit about their righteousness and feel no convictions of sin. Hypocrites are deceived because they shun the light; and the reprobate feel nothing because they have departed from God- and there is no security from an evil conscience but in hiding places. But the Apostle is speaking here of those whom God has drawn into the light and come before his tribunal, and fills with respect of his judgment. We cannot have a calm peace unless God’s Spirit gives us pure hearts. Those who are stupefied, often feel secret regret, and torment themselves in their lethargy.
3:21- “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.” This refers to true believers (not hypocrites or gross despisers of God). The Lord is the one who weighs our hearts (Prov. 16:2) no matter how much the reprobate approve of their lives. This scale of God (on which he weighs our conscience) does not allow us to boast we have a clean heart. We only come in calm confidence into God’s presence, when we bring with us the testimony of a heart conscious of what is right and honest. By faith an access to God with confidence is opened to us (Eph. 3:12), and by faith we have peace that our consciences may stand peaceably with God (Rom. 5:1). There is not much difference- though Paul shows the cause of confidence (faith), and John shows the addition of confidence (love).
Another difficulty comes up in that who has a heart that never finds fault with themselves? But the godly are reproved that they may also be absolved at the same time. It is necessary that we should be inwardly troubled about our sins, that terror may lead to humility and hatred of our selfishness, so that we may flee to the sacrifice of Christ where we will find peace. Knowing that it is possible to please God gives us a calm and peaceful heart so no inward guilt disturbs our calm cheerfulness.
3:22-“ and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.” Now he shows that none can really pray to God unless they in reverence and purity rightly worship him. The idea of a clean conscience proceeds the idea of God’s hearing our prayers. It is a general truth in scripture that the ungodly are not heard by God, but their sacrifices and prayers are an abomination to him. So the door of his presence is closed to hypocrites. It should be noted that good conscience is not the mediator but Christ is the only mediator in God’s court. “Because we keep his commands” does not mean that confidence in prayer is based on our works; but he is saying that true belief and sincere worship of God cannot be separated from faith.

Thoughts: Is it possible to not be perfect and yet have a clean conscience? This passage speaks to this telling us we can have peace with God, and have confidence in our relationship with Him. This peace and confidence does not come from doing anything, but by His Holy Spirit who brings us assurance and peace with God. An ultimate sign of peace and confidence with God is prayer. If our relationship with God is a good one, we can talk to Him knowing He hears us.

Prayer: Lord, thank you that you hear our prayers, and bring us into your peace, giving us confidence in life. In our stressful, busy, and anxious world, help us to reflect your peace and the confidence that comes from know you are on the throne.

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