Last week, Pastor David Platt addressed the School of Divinity at Liberty University, where I am a student. His aim was to raise the bar for ministry leaders. We all listened intently as he listed the ways today’s leaders have compromised, setting a bad example for the church. That sermon left me and my fellow Divinity students with a conviction hangover. My friends and I expressed to one another how inadequate we felt for the task ahead of us. Are we modeling life in Christ for others? Do we even have a relationship with Christ? What are we doing here?
Here I am sitting in my apartment on a Sunday morning because I just can’t fake the church thing today, feeling guilty because I think that makes me a failure. And I read 1 John 3.
“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.”
I may not feel sanctified today, but God says otherwise. Because he sees the precious blood of Christ which cleanses me from sin and sanctifies me before him. And there is more.
“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.”
There it is. The commandments. That is what we get so hung up on. We try and try to do everything right and still feel guilty because we know that it is futile. We will never please God. We are too messed up. But that is because we have forgotten the most important commandment. That we believe in the name of Jesus. No one can truly love others or do anything good before God without first abiding in him. We can’t even begin to follow his commands. Don’t I know this? Isn’t this the gospel?
When the Bible talks about belief, it means much more than mentally acknowledging that something is true. To believe in Christ means to let my hope, trust, and confidence rest on him. It is not a one-time act. It is an ongoing experience. Part of that belief is the painful awareness of my sin and hopelessness apart from Christ.
My heart often condemns me. But when it does, I throw myself upon the mercy of God personified in Jesus Christ. Without him I am lost. As much as I hate to feel convicted, if it restores my faith in Christ, then that is a pill I need to take daily. It is the grace of Christ that enables me to fulfill the commandments of God—to love and to lead others and to share this faith with them as well.
“Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him.”