Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Outspokenness Toward God

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. (1 John 3:21-23)
“Beloved.” John is speaking very tenderly and pastorally to his readers. “If our heart does not condemn us.” To condemn (Greek, kataginosko) is to “know against,” to find fault with. This is not the nagging of an overly scrupulous conscience or some kind of pathological introspection. Those things will never give you any peace. No, as we will see, John has something very simple and specific in mind.

“We have confidence toward God.” The English word “confidence” derives from two Latin words: con, “with” and fide, “faith.” Confidence is acting with faith and assurance. The Greek word in our text carries the same idea and literally means “outspokenness.”

“Because we keep His commandments and do those things which are pleasing in His sight.” Here we learn the issue in which we should have clear conscience and confidence toward God: keeping His commandments. Now, John is not talking about the Ten Commandments, or the 613 precepts of the Mosaic Law, or any kind system of rule-keeping or point-scoring at all. After all, John is not known as the Apostle of Law, but as the Apostle of Love. So what are these commandments John has in mind, which will lead us into bold assurance with God? They boil down to one commandment with two facets. This is His commandment:
  1. Believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ.
  2. Love on another.
Life does not get any simpler than that. But when did God ever give this commandment?

It happened one day when a scribe started paying attention to what Jesus was preaching and teaching. Quite taken with how well Jesus had answered the controversial questions of the Sadducees, this scribe went up to Jesus and asked, “Which is the first commandment of all?”

Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.… And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

Jesus went right to the heart of the matter and addressed the matters of the heart. This simple commandment, “Love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself,” is what all the commandments of God are actually about. In fact, it is what the whole kingdom of God is about. That is why, when the scribe received this revelation and fully embraced it, Jesus declared, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

This is what John was talking about in his epistle. The commandment to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength is rendered by him as “Believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ.” “Love your neighbor as yourself” corresponds with “Love one another.”

This is what we live by: Love — love for God (believing in His Son) and love for each other. If we are living by love, then our hearts have no reason to find fault with us.

Therefore we can have a holy outspokenness toward God. This is not a law relationship but a love relationship, a divine mingling of God’s love toward us and our love toward Him. It is a relationship of trust and assurance. In such a relationship it is then quite natural that we can ask of God and expect to receive from Him whatever we ask.

Is this not what Jesus meant when He said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness [i.e., love God and love one another], and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

Its not about what you know. John was addressing people who had been exposed to an early form of gnosticism, a false teaching which prized “secret” forms of knowledge (“Gnostic” is derived from the Greek verb ginosko, “to know”). Notice how John turned that on its ear:

We do not ask and receive from God on the basis of some secret knowledge that we have acquired. In fact, it is more about what we don’t know — i.e., our heart does not know anything against us. Rather, our confidence towards God comes out of being in a love relationship with Him.

In other words, its not about what you know, its not even about who you know. Its about who you love.

When we walk in love for God and each other, committing ourselves to Jesus, then we have come into a wonderful place of outspokenness toward God, a place where we can joyfully call out for Abba, Father — Daddy! In that place we can ask God whatever we like and fully expect to receive it from Him.