This Sunday at PBF we will be examining First John 3:19-24, a very practical passage about how to put our hearts at rest in the presence of God when our hearts are restless. However, one thing we must not forget is that this passage is for Christians. It is not for the unsaved, that is, those who do not have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is important to stress this right off the bat because those who are not rightly related to God through Jesus Christ have no business being at rest in God's presence. In reality, they are in a very dangerous position at the edge of a precipice, and it is only the sheer pleasure of God keeps them from falling to their eternal destruction. Their lives may be snatched away at any moment as happens every day in many different ways. Their need is to run to Jesus as quickly as they can and to plead with him for mercy. Only then will they be in a position to benefit from the very practical instruction of this passage.
Having said that, we note that the apostle John is not a theoretical Christian. He knew what it was to live the Christian life and he wants to help us do the same. In our lives as Christians there are many times when our hearts may be troubled. When we think of the day of judgment, or when we try to pray or read the Bible, when we open our mouths to witness, or when we think about how we measure up to the biblical standard of holiness. This upset of heart can be the result of direct Satanic attack, or the unjust criticism or ostracism of others, or it may come because we are physically, emotionally and spiritual exhausted, or it may be the result of poor teaching on the Christian life that does not constantly hold before our eyes Jesus and him crucified.
Whatever the cause we are not to sit and mourn our lamentable situation. We are to fight back and mount a counter-offensive! We are to look at our lives in terms of our commitment to Jesus and our love for our Christian brothers and sisters and we are to reason as follows: there can be only one explanation for our faith and love and that is our experience of the grace and mercy of God! John wants us to work backwards from our commitment to Jesus and our love for his family to our union with him. The truth is that we are not like this by nature. As we come into the world we are unbelieving and unloving. We are ungodly and unrighteous. We are self-centered instead of God-centered. IF this has changed, there can be only one explanation! God has been at work. He has been about his work of salvation and recreation! In other words, we are to preach the Gospel to our own hearts and in this way set them at rest in his presence.
Hymnwriter Lousia M.R. Snead expressed it beautifully when she wrote:
'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His Word.
Just to rest upon His promise, just to know: 'Thus saith the Lord.'
O how sweet to trust in Jesus, just to trust His cleansing blood,
Just in simple faith to plunge me 'neath the healing, cleansing flood!
Yes, 'tis sweet to trust in Jesus, just from sin and self to cease,
Just from Jesus simply taking life and rest, and joy and peace.
I'm so glad to trust in Jesus, precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me, wilt be with me to the end.