Peninsula Community Church
July 8, 2012
Displaying Christ – How’s Your Heart
In order to assure that we are healthy, a doctor may monitor our health by running tests on the heart. The last time I was at the doctor, they ran an EKG, tested my blood for Cholesterol, measured my heart rate and took my blood pressure so that he would have a baseline to know how healthy my heart was and to determine if I needed treatment for any specific problems.
John, in this passage, is suggesting a spiritual heart check up by giving us one test available to us to determine if our spiritual heart is healthy. Let’s read:
1 John 3:19-24 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for 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; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
One of the means to determine the health of our hearts is to look to see if we are walking in forgiveness or if we are walking in the condemnation of past or present sin. The answer to this question will determine the health of our spiritual heart. Just as much as we must control the bad cholesterol in our bodies, we also need to control the levels of condemnation in us.
The problem however is that far too many followers of Christ walk in self-condemnation. While we have forgiven others and even believe that we have been forgiven by God, we fail to forgive ourselves and believe it is possible to release the sin we have committed to God.
When we look at this subject, it behooves us to understand the difference between conviction and condemnation. I propose to you, in a simplistic way, that both of these acts of the heart come from the same basis of truth in that there is a problem or sin that must be dealt with but there is most often a difference in the way we respond to these. You see condemnation says “There is a problem but there is no hope; that is just the way things are and you will never change.” On the other hand, conviction administered by the Holy Spirit, speaks to a truth in our life but points us to the cross and forgiveness which speaks of hope and brings life to our spiritual being when we act upon the conviction brought.
Therefore, we have a choice to make. Will we walk in the condemnation of the past or will we allow the conviction of the Holy Spirit to set us free? To choose the former is to deny Christ’s finished work on the cross. To allow condemnation to have its way in us is to deny the power and the work of the cross in us. To hold onto past guilt and shame is to walk in condemnation of one’s self rather than the freedom that has been given. Paul stated it best in Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. If He has created us for freedom why would we return to the bondage of self-condemnation?
When we walk condemnation free, our relationship with God and with others is affected positively. We see here in this passage that when we refuse to walk in the condemnation of self that we approach God with a greater confidence and we can then ask God and we shall receive it. But notice the caveat here. His answering our prayer is subject to keeping His commandments and walking in a lifestyle that pleases Him. Let me illustrate this in this way.
If I am a poor steward of my finances and I squander what God has blessed me with, God is not obligated to provide finances for me when I ask him…. Even though He may act out of His grace and show mercy to us, He is not obligated to allow us to continue in sin, selfishness or ignorance.
When we look at this subject of condemnation, we must realize that there are several results of this heart condition. These negative results might include but are not limited to self-punishment, avoidance of God and others, a sense of unworthiness, uncertainty about the future, distorted thinking and/or a sense of powerlessness to change or see things different.
The question then is how do we forgive our self’s. I propose there are four steps to forgiveness. To begin with we must acknowledge our sin and that self-condemnation exists. I have often stated that healing and the beginning of faith to bring change is to begin at the starting point of truth. Too often we want to ignore the truth but it is “truth that sets us free.”
Secondly, once we recognize that there is sin in our heart we must then repent. Repentance is a military term which means “about face.” In other words we turn and we go the other way. What we once believed or how we once lived is changed.
Thirdly, believe God and reaffirm our trust in his word. Notice here that John says that the one who keeps His commandments is the one who will abide with Christ and they will see God abide in them.
And finally, we must choose forgiveness. In the final analysis, we must seek forgiveness and then accept God’s forgiveness given to us through the work of Christ on the cross.
In 1986 there was a popular movie that had a scene in it that clearly illustrates this issue. In the movie “The Mission,” Jeremy Irons plays a Jesuit missionary whose mission is to evangelize the natives of a village inBrazil. Along the way he encountersMendozaplayed by Robert DeNiro.Mendozawas a mercenary who was a slave trader. He was brutal to the point that he has his own brother killed because he had slept with his wife. In the movie,Mendozacomes to know Christ and converts to Christianity. Although he has converted to Christ, he continues to carry the weight of his past sins and wrongs.
At one point in the movie,Mendozawants to do penance for his sin and chooses to carry the weight of the armor he once wore roped to his back. Mendoza and Father Gabriel were on their way up the mountain to see the very tribe thatMendozahad taken slaves. For several days we seeMendozastruggling up the mountain to carry the load. He dragged the load on his back behind him at times facing great odds.
After great struggle and after several days of climbing the mountain under incredible odds, he reaches the apex where he and his group encounter the tribe he was so violent against. In that moment one of the tribesmen grabs a knife and places it on his neck. He begins to believe that his life is over. After an interchange between Father Gabriel and the tribal leader, the tribesman does something so amazing. He cuts the rope to the armor and it falls into the river and is washed away.Mendozabreaks down in that moment into uncontrollable sobs which lead to the laughter of his freedom.
Some 2000 years ago Christ climbed a mountain under incredible odds. Instead of carrying his own sin, He carried the weight of all mankind’s sin. And in an instant he died and the whole world was free from its sin. And yet we continue to carry sin’s burden although we are forgiven.
David understood this when he penned these words in Psalm 103:10-12 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
Because of Christ’s work on the cross we can be free from our past sin and failures. The question is “will you continue to hold onto your sin or will you release your sin and be forever set free today.” It’s your choice. Which one will you choose: bondage or freedom?