Is there anyone who does not wish to believe that he/she is okay in God's eyes? This question, of course, would not be relevant for anyone who does not believe in God. But, among those who are fully convinced that the God of the Bible exists, is there anyone who is content to think that he/she stands condemned before God? To ask this yet another way, as believers isn't it our hearts' desire to be justified before the One who will determine our eternal destiny? Today's message will consider this question from a biblical perspective as well as from a practical personal point of view.
John wrote about this but not exactly in these words. Let's cite the passage: “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.” (1 John 3.20-21). These verses actually speak to the concept of self evaluation (self justification). The word condemn(s) in these verses could rightly be translated as accuse(s). The verses would then say “...if our heart accuses us,” and “...if our heart does not accuse us.” Hence, what we are dealing with here is role that conscience plays in the process of self justification.
Let's quickly dispense with a flawed interpretation of these verses. These passages do not indicate whether or not we are actually justified before God, just how we feel when our conscience approves or disapproves of our spiritual condition. One could have a perfectly clear conscience and still be guilty before God (Saul of Tarsus aka Paul the apostle would be a perfect example of this). However, when our heart condemns us (tells us we are wrong), it is certainly the case that God sees that we are living outside that which we know to be best; we stand condemned before Him. Now in terms of self justification, it follows that if we believe that we are not justified, God sees us in the same way. However, even if we see ourselves as justified, it may be the case that God sees us as unjustified. Putting this in perspective, we observe: Thoughts (or feelings) of self justification are NOT an indicator of justification in the courts of heaven!
This places a burden upon us to discern beyond our thoughts and feelings that we are truly justified (in our own minds as well as in God's mind). It is possible that we can deceive ourselves and think that things are right with our Maker when they are not. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we know the standard by which justification can be obtained and against which it can be measured. Personal biases, prejudices, and opinions must not play any role at all in this determination, otherwise we are subject to deception and eternal condemnation.
This message is not intended to upset or to place doubt in anyone's mind, but these facts beg us to ask these questions: “Do I know beyond any shadow of doubt that my justification of self is consistent with how God view's me? Am I absolutely sure that personal biases, opinions, and prejudices have not played a role in my justification of self?” As long as these impediments to real justification are in the way, we can never be sure of our justification.
This has led me to believe that the gospel is not nearly as complicated as many of us have made it. When divisions among brethren over “doctrinal matters” are as numerous as the sands of the sea, it leads me to wonder why God made it so hard (or just who made it so hard)! I refuse to believe that the shores of heaven will only be inhabited by people with advanced intellectual capabilities!
1. What can we know for sure if our heart condemns (accuses) us?
2. What can we know for sure if our heart does not condemn (accuse) us?
3. Is the gospel complicated such that only those who are extraordinarily intelligent will be saved? Why or why not?
4. What are the sources of potential biases and prejudices that we bring to the table when we consider how we stand before God?
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