Prepare Our Hearts – May 1

A Weekday Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church. Find another day here.

Friday May 1, 2020
1 John 2:3-6
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

The popular modern view of Jesus is that He was nothing more than a wise rabbi who challenged the religious and political elite of His day by caring for the poor and the outcast while preaching a message of free love and acceptance for all. While that is at least partially true, Jesus also made demands on His followers. He did not just want everyone to get along. Around the dinner table at the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That same evening, perhaps on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, He also told them “If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love” and “you are my friends if you do what I command.”

How can I know that I have truly come to know Jesus? I don’t think there is a more important question that we can ask. Perhaps like many of you, I grew up in a loving Christian home. From ever since I can remember, if the church was open, my family was there. I went to Sunday school, listened to Christian music and radio dramas, sang in the children’s choir, knew my Bible pretty well, was part of the youth worship team, and was more or less, generally, for the most part, a good kid. But none of those actions meant that I had actually come to know Jesus. Rather, I would say that all of that time while I knew a lot of information about Jesus, I’m not sure that I would say that I knew Him personally. I had a relationship with the people of God, but not with God himself. While the outward actions of much of my life mostly looked pretty good, inside, my heart was a mess. I mastered putting on whatever mask those around me expected and wanted to see, living the duplicitous life being the good kid at home and church and then doing whatever I wanted at school and around my friends. I began to make a regular habit of lying to my parents about where I was going, what I was doing, and who I was with. My greatest desire more than anything was to just to enjoy life and fit in with the world.

Then, at summer camp with my youth group, God stepped into my life and awoke me from my stupor. One day at camp as I listened to the pastor preach, and I don’t remember who he was or even the passage that he was teaching, suddenly everything made sense. The Lord convicted me of my hypocrisy and sin, and for the first time I understood that while I had always thought I was a pretty good kid, my faith was in myself and not in God. I was that person, like John writes about in verse 4, who had said “I know him” but in actuality was nothing more than a liar.

In that moment I became aware of the fact that my heart was hopelessly wicked, I was powerless on my own, I needed a Savior who could heal me and bring me to life, and I needed to know Jesus for myself. After that, I began to have a hunger for the Word of God and became burdened for my unbelieving friends, the people I had so desperately wanted to be like, and I knew that I had to tell them about what God had done for me and what He could do for them.

That is just the beginning of my personal story of faith, and I wish I could say that everything has been perfectly awesome from that time on, that I have experienced nothing but linear growth in my walk with Jesus. But the truth is that my life has looked much more like a game of Battleship than a vertical line of escalating holiness. While some days I hit the mark, I fail more times than I wish to count. If you don’t believe me, just ask my family. Although we are not able to completely stop sinning, as Augustine explained in his third stage of the human nature (see yesterday), Christians do undergo a change. They are no longer completely stuck in their sin, but are now able, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the new heart they have received from Him, to follow the commands of God.

The great news, for me and for the rest of us, is that Jesus knew what He was getting into before He invited us into His family, and His offer of grace is still on the table. In fact, the more we know Him, the closer we draw near, the more we realize how dependent we are upon His grace each day. The Bible tells us so beautifully in Lamentations 3:22-23 that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

Jesus is merciful and faithful, which also means that while He does insist that we abide in Him and keep His word, He does so for our benefit. Jesus is not a harsh or nefarious master; He desires our ultimate good. When we walk with Him, and in Him, the love of God is perfected in us. There is no greater gift we could receive than to fully know and experience God’s great love for us. May we believe it and receive it anew today.

Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, You are gracious and kind. We ask that in Your providential mercy, that You would continue to draw us closer to yourself, help us to abide in You and keep Your commandments. Allow us to know and experience your love and mercy anew this and every morning. We ask that Your Holy Spirit would continue to be at work convicting our sin us of our sin and drawing us back to You. We especially lift up those who think that they know You, but are in reality far from You. We pray that, by any and all means necessary, You would continue to draw men and women to Yourself. For the sake of Your name we pray, Amen.