************ Sermon on 1 John 3:19 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on January 19, 2020

1 John 3:16-21
1 John 3:19
"Troubled Hearts Put to Rest"

To get ready for the Lord's Supper this morning you were asked to examine yourself. Do you feel guilty? Does your conscience accuse you? Good! You heard the Ten Commandments this morning as a teacher of sin. Again, do you feel guilty? Does your conscience accuse you? Good! You heard me right: it is a good thing to feel guilty. Let's find out why as we take a closer look at our text for this morning.

I Troubled Hearts
A Our text begins with, "This then is how we know ..." The Greek is future so John tells us "we will know." We may not know now but someday, sometime, somewhere, we will know. We will know. Whatever John is talking about is something we need to find, to discover, to be taught, to be told in order to know. It is not something we are born knowing. It is not something intuitive like breathing or eating or sleeping. Someday we will know and experience.

Know what? Experience what? "How we set our hearts at rest." Someday our heart, soul, conscience -- here they all mean the same thing -- will be at rest. Originally, the word "rest" means to be tranquilized -- like a veterinarian does with an animal or a doctor does with a patient before surgery. The idea is that we become calm, peaceful, soothed, quieted, tranquil. We no longer thrash around. We don't wiggle and squirm.

Someday we will know how to set our hearts at rest. How to quiet and soothe our heart, our soul, our conscience. How to experience peace.

B This implies something doesn't it? This implies our heart, our soul, our conscience is NOT at rest. This implies our heart, our soul, our conscience needs to be calmed and soothed. This implies our heart, our soul, our conscience is filled with doubts and fears. This implies a troubled heart. This implies a heart without the assurance of salvation.

We can ask, "why?" Why does our heart, our soul, our conscience need to be calmed and soothed? Why is there a need for our heart to be at rest? Why doubts and fears? Because we live and stand before God. Because we live and stand before a God who is absolutely holy and pure. I want you to realize it is the presence and character of God that causes troubled hearts. In the presence of the holy God do you know what we have? John says "our hearts condemn us" (1 Jn 3:20). We have a "condemning heart" that robs us of peace. In the presence of the holy God -- and here is another way to describe it -- we have an "accusing conscience" (cf Rom 2:15).

Think of Isaiah. He saw the King, the Lord Almighty. Do you remember what he cried out?
(Isa 6:5) "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."
Think of what was said by Manoah, the father of Samson, when he saw the angel of the Lord:
(Judg 13:22) "We are doomed to die!" he said to his wife. "We have seen God!"
People are filled with fear and trembling in the presence of the holy God.

Do you know why? Our condemning heart, our accusing conscience, says that compared to the holy and righteous God we are sinful, frail, weak. We fail to meet God's standards and continually fall short and we know it. We know we are imperfect. We know we lie under the judgment of God. The result is doubt and fear. The result is a troubled heart, a heart without assurance.

C Today, as you probably realize, many churches and Christians are at the opposite end of the spectrum. People claim salvation who have no right to claim salvation. People expect to go to heaven who have no reason for that expectation. We have reached the point where assurance is claimed by those without faith in Jesus, zero worship attendance, and a daily life of utter disobedience. Abortionists, homosexuals, murderers, rapists, thieves, and others claim eternal life without repentance, faith, and a striving for obedience.

In light of this trend today a condemning heart, an accusing conscience, is a good thing.

D The conscience is a gift from God. Its job is to accuse you, to remind you that you don't measure up before God. Your conscience should never let you off the hook. Its job is not to pacify you or make you feel good about yourself. Seen this way, the conscience knows nothing of mercy and forgiveness. The conscience looks at your life in the light of God's law -- whether it is the law of Moses, the moral principles laid out by the prophets and psalms, the commands and teachings of Jesus, or the instructions of the apostles. It looks at your life and offers no excuses and gives no mercy and holds out no forgiveness. The conscience is God's warning system for people on the way to hell. You commit sin and your conscience immediately rises to accuse you or to stop you. It attacks you, condemns you, accuses you, indicts you, and brings you to the point of doubt and fear. That's the function of the conscience.

If you are a true Christian you have a heart that constantly condemns and a conscience that is very active and well informed. In fact, your conscience works better after you are a Christian than before you are a Christian. God has given you and me and every person a condemning heart, an accusing conscience.

E But you know what Satan does? He strives to neutralize the conscience. I can think of at least three ways Satan does this.

First, Satan misinforms the conscience. A misinformed conscience tells people they aren't bad; in fact, it tells them they are good. A misinformed conscience turns truth into lie and lie into truth. A misinformed conscience celebrates and approves of what is sin.

Second, Satan silences the conscience by telling you not to feel guilty. You should feel good about yourself and who you are, says Satan. It is Satan, congregation, it is Satan who has invented today's culture of self-esteem. So teachers cannot give students a failing grade. So parents never discipline. So every team gets a trophy and is treated like a champion.

Third, Satan sears the conscience. He makes the conscience hard and calloused so nothing bothers it anymore. This is what happened to Lot's wife in Sodom. She was so surrounded by the evil and injustice of the city that it no longer bothered her.

So be careful, congregation, be careful that you don't let the devil neutralize your conscience.

Your conscience is a critical part of the Christian's package. So, yes, I hope your conscience bothered you as you prepared for the Lord's Supper and as you heard the reading of the Law.

II Hearts at Rest
A Did you know the Roman Catholic Church wants you to stay this way: troubled, without rest, filled with doubt and fear. One of the great charges made by the Roman Catholics against the Reformers at the time of Martin Luther was that the doctrine of assurance makes believers careless about sin; the Catholics said it is too easy to sin if you know you are forgiven. To this day they do not think it is a good thing to know you are saved and headed for heaven. They want to saddle people with doubt and fear.

It isn't just the Roman Catholic Church that thinks this way. A hundred years after the Reformation the Arminians said the same thing. They said one cannot be sure of salvation, that one can lose salvation, that no one can have full assurance. They, also, leave people in doubt and fear.

B What are we to do when our conscience accuses us, when our heart condemns us? Where are we to turn? How do we get rest for our souls? How do we know and experience peace? Go to verse 20: "God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."

God is greater. Than what? Than our hearts. Than our conscience. Than our souls. There is a higher court. There is a higher standard. God's standard of holiness is greater than my standard. There is more knowledge. God, God, is greater than my heart and God knows all things. God is much greater than my conscience and hates my sin more than my conscience hates my sin. God hates sin more than I do. God knows more about me and my failures than I do. God is greater. God knows everything. He knows the worst that is in me and in you. He sees the hidden things, the secret things, the true inclinations of our heart. He sees and He knows. And He what? He does not condemn us.
(Rom 8:1) Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

Isn't this amazing? Beautiful? Wonderful? God sees the deep reality of our failures. He knows more than our conscience knows, more than our conscience admits. He knows the dark deeds, the black deeds, in our life. He knows the dark thoughts, the black thoughts, in our mind. He knows the dark words, the black words, from our tongue. He knows. He knows everything. And, He forgives.

In our heart, our soul, our conscience we are condemned. We examine ourselves and we condemn ourselves. But Christians know God doesn't leave them in their sin and misery. Satan wants to. But not God. God, Who knows more, forgives us. He gives us rest. He gives us tranquility. He gives us peace. In Christ. In Christ He takes away our fear and trembling. Isn't He great and awesome and loving?
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