19 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. 1 John 3:19-22
Our evidence for being children of God lies not in our words or deeds, but in our hearts.
Our hearts are many things in the Bible, referenced many times. Here, John is saying our hearts can be closed, and they can even condemn us. Only the Lord is greater than our heart, John says, and only he knows everything. If we are not "of" him, if we don’t believe in who he is and what he did in the very depths of us, we might have been able to fake it to everybody but him.
But to him, we cannot.
Our hearts either care about his commandments or they don’t. They either care about people or they don’t. Our hearts are what leads us to the action of loving our brothers, or following His commandments. Our hearts come first, and the resulting actions will follow close behind.
It is crazy to me that God doesn’t choose to connect the idea that “whatever we ask we receive” directly to our actions. He says that we have confidence in asking because of our hearts being inclined to him, and the keeping his commandments part comes after.
Here’s why this is a big deal to me: God easily could have said, you can ask whatever you want and you will receive it, if you keep my commandments. He could have made it a simple reward-punishment formula, one we would all understand.
I think that is almost, but not quite, what God says in these passages. He adds something really sweet, something really important in the middle.
We can ask what we desire and we will receive it because our hearts are our evidence that we love him, and the keeping of the commandments is the evidence of our hearts. He puts something in between what we earn and what we receive, and that something is the work that he already did in turning our hearts towards him.
The idea that we can approach and ask for what we desire with confidence sounds crazy to a lot of us. We don’t live in a culture where that is normal, we live somewhere that says we only ask for what we earned- and Jesus doesn’t operate like that.
I pray that today and this month the truth of our hearts and what God has done to them would set in. Would we care for his people and his commandments, and would our actions be an overflow of our caring. Would we trust that if our hearts abide in him, that is enough to ask God for the desires of our heart.