“Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” (1 John 3:20-21)
Sometimes our godly desires conflict with our sinful desires (Monday’s post). Other times we have desires that can be met in different ways, or with different options (Tuesday’s post). Then there are times when we have good aspirations but feel guilty anyway. Why should we feel bad when we have confessed our sins to God (and others, if necessary) and we are making good choices?
I believe there are at least two answers to this question. First of all, I usually am guilty of sins that are unknown to me because I am a sinner. In this case, my guilt is real before God who is perfect. No matter how much we confess, we will never be able to acknowledge everything because we deceive ourselves. The gospel of Jesus Christ has the best news when we find our hearts condemning us. He has died for our sins, even those which are unknown to us. We see this truth in Scripture, “the Word of God that acquits believers must prevail over the word of our hearts that condemns us.” (1) It is essential that we believe that God is greater than the contents and desires of our hearts; this wisdom contributes to our assurance of salvation in Christ, and therefore, to our living lives of joyful faith with him.
Another reason why we may experience shame is that Satan and the world consistently attack our security and confidence. A quotation from Martin Luther offers insight into this phenomenon and the remedy for it:
“When the devil accuses us and says, ‘You are a sinner and therefore damned,’ we should answer, ‘Because you say I am a sinner, I will be righteous and saved.’ ‘No,’ says the devil, ‘you will be damned.’ And I reply, ‘No, for I fly to Christ, who gave himself for my sins. Satan, you will not prevail against me when you try to terrify me by setting forth the greatness of my sins and try to bring me into heaviness, distrust, despair, hatred, contempt and blasphemy against God. On the contrary, when you say I am a sinner, you give me armor and weapons against yourself, so that with your own sword I may cut your throat and tread you under my feet, for Christ died for sinners…As often as you object that I am a sinner, so often you remind me of the benefit of Christ my Redeemer, on whose shoulders, and not on mine, lie all my sins.” (2)
Therefore, having confessed our sins, we rejoice in the cleansing of our consciences by our Lord and say with Paul, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience.” (Acts 23:1) Do you have this confidence in Christ, who is greater than your heart?
(1) Reformation Study Bible, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), 2015, text note for 1 John 3:21
(2) Martin Luther, commenting on Galatians 1:4, quotation found at The Gospel Coalition’s website: thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/ray-ortlund/how-to-fight-the-accuser/