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Thursday May 21, 2020
1 John 3:19-22
By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
Graduation time is upon us once again, although this is indeed a different graduation time than any we have ever known (and hopefully will ever know). Along with the pomp and circumstance of traditional commencement exercises comes the traditional commencement speeches. In this unique time, the standard cliches like, “follow your heart” and “reach for the stars” and “chase your dreams” ring more than a little hollow as small businesses are closing and employees are being laid off in devastating and record-breaking numbers, not to mention the continued presence of a deadly virus. In light of the present circumstances, the old stand-by’s are now being replaced with lines such as, to borrow from Oprah Winfrey in her Facebook address to the class of 2020, “What will your essential service be?”
The world is beginning to understand that the dreams and desires of our hearts are unreliable at best and destructive at worst. The heart is not just the main organ for ensuring properly oxygenated blood flows to all parts to the body, but even in our day, it is recognized as the emotional center of our identity. In Jeremiah 17:9, the Bible warns that, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
Not sure that the heart is deceitful and sick? Just consider the range of emotions we can go through in the span of just a few moments. One of our favorite shows to watch during quarantine has been old episodes of the Great British Baking Show. In each show, contestants are given three opportunities to demonstrate their baking prowess to celebrity baker judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. In one particular episode, it was mesmerizing to watch one particular contestant, Nadia, begin with smug exuberance at the success of her fantastic first “signature bake” be followed immediately by panicked tears due to a poor showing during the “technical challenge,” which were then replaced with speechless astonishment and shouts of exuberance as she not only created a breathtaking “showstopper” to not only survive elimination but in the process advance to the final weekend being crowned “Star Baker.” Over the span of 50 minutes, we were entertained by vicariously experiencing the real-life emotions of a person we will almost certainly never meet.
Not only is the human heart fickle, but John reminds us that followers of Christ must be at work actively to reassure, rather than blindly follow, their hearts. When Jesus confirms the most important command in Scripture, He begins “You shall love the love the Lord your God with all your heart.” Loving God is not a natural or passive response to God, but it is a supernatural work of active obedience. God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. While our hearts vacillate constantly between pride and joy and dejection and despair, God knows the truth. Even the most devout followers of Jesus are constantly tempted to view their standing before God on based on what they have done, or not done, for Him. We feel close to Him when we do good, and we attempt to hide from Him when we do not. But the simple and wonderful truth is that we are never accepted by God because of anything we have done, but only on the basis of what Jesus has done for us. When we forget this truth that our forgiveness is not a result of our own merits, we are much more likely to be fatalistic in our thinking of ourselves and others.
Christians inability to forgive others stems from an inability to fully accept and trust in the forgiveness of God for ourselves. If we properly understood the scope of the forgiveness of God, that the full weight of our sins has been placed upon Jesus and permanently taken away, we would be empowered to forgive and love as Jesus does. In Romans 8:1 we are reminded that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” If God does not condemn us, we must not allow our hearts to condemn us either. This is good news. The best news. If God is for us, then not even our hearts can be against us!
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we thank You for what You have done on our behalf. Forgive us for the seasons and moments that we fall into pride or despair based on the fickle nature of our hearts. We ask that You would continue Your transformative work replacing our hearts of stone with a heart of flesh. Grant us the ability to discern the truth about ourselves, others, and You. We ask this in Your unchangeable name. Amen.