Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Heart 2

By Bessie Wilson

This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:19-20)

What is it that helps us set our hearts at rest in His presence? The preceding verse (verse 18) establishes the context: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” The immediate context is that if we see a brother in need and we have no pity, the question is, “How can the love of God be in us?”

Years ago, just after Mother’s Day, a friend (the wife of a pastor) told me that her young daughter had defied her and gone to a public park. She was wondering how to handle this when the child returned. My friend had been folding clean laundry and was about to take it to her daughter’s room when she remembered the loving card received on Mother’s Day. She put it on top of the laundry, took it to the room and handed the card to the daughter with some remark to the effect that the card was not true and she was returning it. It was an object lesson that words of love should be followed by action. I believe that it spoke to the child’s heart for her to see that her disobedience contradicted her words of love.

(Is this why we have difficulty finding a card to express our love on special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, etc? We know our performance has not come up to our words.)

Rereading the phrase, “whenever our hearts condemn us,” we see the necessity of examining our own hearts. When, during such self-examination, we find that our heart condemns us, two things must be considered.

Does my heart condemn me because I have sinned? If so, sin must be confessed and forgiven on the basis of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This means real guilt for a specific sin of thought, attitude or deed. Does my heart still condemn me? Here we need to evaluate with the Lord’s help whether we are experiencing false guilt, a sort of confused, uncomfortable feeling of not making the grade and not knowing why. Perhaps verse 18 will provide some clue. Am I loving with words or tongue but failing in my actions and in truth? If my walk does not correspond to my talk, then I need to get back to evaluating by the Lord’s standard. He says we can set our hearts at rest in His presence if we check ourselves by His standard. For example, do I say I respect my husband but by my actions and words go against his wishes, denigrate him before the children or friends, act independently of his desires and undermine his authority in the family? Many of us would have to confess real guilt in this matter.

If, however, my respect for my husband is obvious to children and friends, I do not act independently, and I reinforce his authority, then my heart can be at rest in His presence. Remember God is greater than our hearts and He knows everything, so He is to be consulted as to whether, in His sight, I am loving in actions and truth.

Let’s use the same example in light of the husband’s responsibility. Husbands, do you say you love your wife but stand by idly when you see her struggle with the children, the laundry and the meals (and sometimes no money)? Do you discipline the children and teach them to honor their mother? Do you express your love and appreciations for her willingness to do without by telling her what her skills are worth in the present-day market and how much you would like to give her things of value? It does not mean giving her a gift you cannot afford, but she will find that the thought itself is a gift. The television or newspaper should not be a barricade behind which a man can hide while the “little woman” words herself into a resentment. “Cherishing your wife” as Ephesians 5:25 (KJV) says is to hold her dear by taking great care of her as a loved possession. Try this self-evaluation in His presence. It is a humbling experience but rich in benefits.

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