Assuring Your Heart Before God

It is the cherishing of God himself from the heart that makes all the difference. It’s the very fact that a person has been kept near to God by God himself that will preserve him in life over the long run and assure his heart before God. But God does this through various means. I want to write to you today as a part of those means. Every pastor wants his people to be able to enjoy the daily sunshine of the following passage as much as they can: “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.” 1 John 3:18-19. Love to others both in deeds and in truth is a means through which God will actually assure your heart before him as a believer. I want this assurance for you, readers. But how do we become confident and mature Christians loving God and each other in the assurance of heart John speaks of so boldly above? How can we ever “assure our hearts” by what we do? How do we remain motivated as often failing disciples and for the right reasons? If we cherish him above all, not our church, not just doctrine, not any *thing* more than him is the heart of the answer. To that end, doctrine, church, and service to others all play their valuable roles. Today, I want to examine a passage or two.

Romans 8:28 is a rather ‘famous’ verse that reads: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Do you love God? Are you the called? Is your heart assured before him for the right reasons? How would you know? We don’t get to make God up in our own image any more than we get to make up his demands for us, so how do we know that we know that we know him? If this passage is true of us then as believers we can- without presumption- hold onto the hope that no matter what comes our way in life, God will use it, and has in fact designed it, for our eternal good. It’s an important verse. It’s a great verse when we understand it. God’s presence in our lives is assured by it. But how? If this verse is true, then the only questions we have to ask are: 1) who are the called/how might we see his purposes at work in them? and 2) what is his purpose in his calling them? Going after these questions exalts Christ, I hope. As we begin, consider that Paul says explicitly in Ephesians 2 that God saved us by his grace…for good works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10. So, doing the works is what he saved us for. They’re not a side effect, they’re part of the reason he saved us. So doing them is not how he saved us, but it’s a part of why he saved us. Let’s begin.

To the first question: “who are the called/how might we see his purposes at work in them?” I think Scripture lays it out without question that obedience (and obedience over the long term) shows us all whether or not we truly love God. Peter speaks of God’s calling elsewhere as how God: “called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9. If a person believes that God did this it will be increasingly evident in their daily living. It must show up in their love for God. So, how do we see our obedience and works as joyous evidence of our being “called” of God? Well, there are many ways to talk of it. I’ll pick some parts. Jesus says plainly in John 15:7-10: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” The Apostle John, who’d of course heard Jesus preach this message repeatedly and had himself lived it out for decades himself, in reflecting on such truth later writes: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” 1 John 2:3-6. It’s not that keeping commandments earns our calling. No. It’s that our calling is made evident when we keep his commandments. And I hasten to add to this some more of John’s words in 1 John 5:3 where he says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” Do you love God? I hope you’d say yes, but neither you nor I just ‘saying it’ matters a thousandth as much as when we obey God from the heart. God doesn’t just command obedience, he commands joyous obedience. If that’s not offensive to you. If that’s in fact delightful to you, it’s evidence that you love him. And I hope you’ll grow in his promises toward you in Romans 8:28 as a result of reading this. So, in answer to the question how do we know we’re the called of God? Answer: we obey Jesus’ commands from the heart. We obey because we know that obedience pleases God, and that in turn pleases us. That’s what John means when he says, “And his commandments are not burdensome.” If our aim is God’s glory then his glory becomes our joy. We obey because as the Psalmist even said before Jesus came: “I hope for Your salvation, O Lord, and do Your commandments.” Psalm 119:166. You don’t have to force me, Lord. I love you. I don’t have one life when no one’s looking, and one life when they are. I love you. I want to obey you at all times because you’re good and holy and altogether lovely “…and my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14b. Oh, we all fall short. We all have need of repentance. Repenting for our sin daily is a huge part of obeying his commandments, but God’s love and mercy is our motivation and his glory our strength. If you see a person obedient to God from a willing heart, you’ll find someone who can believe Romans 8:28. In other words, if someone asks you, “Why do you obey Christ?” and you can honestly say before God that it’s, “because I want to” then I think Romans 8:28 is written for your assurance!

And I asked a second question above: “What is his purpose in his calling them?” What’s the point of the obedience we briefly here looked at toward God even back with the Psalmist? The point is that God made man in his image, that this image was marred in sin, and that Christ came to restore that image immutably. He does it through our lives lived. Deeds we were rebor for (Ephesians 2:10) and which assure our hearts before him (1 John 3:18-19). Romans 8:29 shows us the reason vs. 28 is there. God calls men to himself: “so that He [Jesus] would be the firstborn among many brethren.” God calls people and does so to make them like Jesus. Jesus, the incarnate Son, made the world and remakes his own through all the means he’s chosen to use in our lives. Again, if you see a person obedient to God from a willing heart, you’ll find someone who can believe Romans 8:28 right on through vv. 29 and 30. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” Matthew 7:21.
Are you about the doing from the heart? Take stock of it. It doesn’t have to be world shaping. Just obedience. You sin. I know. So do I, but can you see your heart seeking after the commandments of your God without it being burdensome? Do you delight to do his will> I hope so. And if so, then I pray you’ll be refreshed today as you examine yourself that God has drawn near to you and that he is working all things together for your good to make you like Jesus. If that’s not you, why wait? Repent and believe the good news today! Follow him. Seek him. Write in anytime!

Joseph Pittano

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