This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
1 John 3:19-24
Chapter 3 of John’s first letter ends with the assurance that we can know for sure where we stand with God, but it isn’t the answer that most of us give if we are asked “how we know”…
John’s answer is that we know by the Spirit within us.
Well steady on there, isn’t that the Spirit that so many are waiting for…until “it” decides to move…? Yes, that one, the one that we say we can’t hear.
Yes, that’s the one John is referring to!
John takes a little different tack that we often do. He says that we will notice whether or not the Spirit within us condemns us, we know that God is greater than our hearts and knows all. I think that many of us today use slightly different terminology for this by saying that we “feel convicted” about something. When this happens, we have something to seek forgiveness for and have the need to alter our behavior or attitudes in some way. When we are not condemned by our hearts, we are confident in His presence. We know that in saying these things, John is making reference to the work of the Spirit in our lives because he says so in the last part of the passage. Now, the remaining question is whether or not this is really true in our lives.
Over the years I’ve noticed that many people will tell me about their active prayer lives. They will tell me all about the countless hours they spend with God and all the rest. On other occasions, they will tell me that they never notice the Spirit working within them, and that’s how I know for sure that they don’t have any of this great prayer life they like to go on about. The reason is that seeking His presence is how we are able to discern the Spirit that is within us. Notice that John linked the two in verses 21 and 22:
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask,
You should notice something else here. Here’s verse 22 in full:
and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.
Yes, we will receive anything we ask in prayer, if we “keep his commands and do what pleases him.” As always in John’s writings, asking and receiving are mentioned firmly within the context of doing His will, and not in doing our will.
So, can you really know for sure where you stand with God?
Seek His presence and you’ll find out.