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Christians Can Have Confidence Before God
When we do not live out our desire to love others perfectly, we should not fear that we are not Christians. God sees our heart, not just our actions, and he knows the truth regarding our salvation. If our heart does not condemn us, we may have fruitfulness in prayer and obedience to him.
1 John 3:19–21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
God Is Greater Than Our Heart
19 By this we know that we are of the truth and will persuade our heart before him, 20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God;
This then is how we know that we belong to the truth: This phrase probably looks back to verses 17–18 rather than forward. If so, the apostle is saying that it is by our deeds of action and in truth that we know that we belong to the truth. The antichrists may have been teaching that they knew the truth by special, inner insight, even though their lives were models of greed and hatred. John countered this impression by claiming the mark of truth is a lifestyle of high moral character and good deeds growing out of our commitment to Christ.
In our desire to live lives of high moral character and good deeds toward others, we will fail. We will fall short even of our own ideals, let alone God’s. When this happens, our hearts may condemn us. But we can rest in his presence, for God knows everything. He knows that we believe in Christ, that we strive to love our brothers, and that we regret falling short. God does not look only at the outer facts of imperfect love, but at the inner fact of having been born of God. The human heart is not the final standard. Rather, God is! God’s power keeps us secure in him. God’s power and steadfastness—not our own—give us security. As Jesus said, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:29).
3:21–22. We may silence our condemning hearts in two ways: (1) by confessing our sin (1:8) so that we are forgiven and cleansed of all unrighteousness, and (2) by resting in the fact that God knows all things, looking not just at our deeds but at our hearts. Once our hearts no longer condemn us, we can have confidence before God. This confidence leads us to fruitfulness in prayer. Characteristically, John states it in absolute terms: we receive from him anything we ask.
Some passages of Scripture seem to give assurance that we will receive anything we ask for (Matt. 7:7–8), but other passages give qualifications to answered prayer. The assurances of answered prayer seem to assume a knowledge of the qualifications. Answers to prayers are predicated on our obedience to God’s commands. This same letter introduces the qualification of asking in God’s will (5:14). We must ask in Jesus’ name (John 14:13; 16:23, 26), and abide in Jesus (John 15:7, 16).
Stott (p. 148) points out that the receiving of answers to prayer is the Christian’s habitual experience since the verbs are in the present tense. The conditions, along with the verb tense, suggest that John did not intend to promise a blank check for any and every prayer, but that answered prayer is the ongoing experience of the Christian. Even Jesus’ request that the cup of crucifixion pass from him was not answered affirmatively (Luke 22:42). We should observe, however, that the request was followed by the statement, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.”
By David Walls and Max Anders
 Or assure; convince
 The Greek word (παρρησία parrēsia) literally means freedom of speech or outspokenness. The sense is boldness in being willing to undertake activities that involve risk or danger, primarily being honest and straightforward in attitude and speech.