Recently, I had an opportunity to minister to a young lady in prison who had been convicted of murder. So often we who are not in prison believe that people in prison get “jailhouse religion” in order to vie for some favor on their sentence or garner support with those they perceive will help them. This premise may be true in some cases but not all. And for those of us who feel that people who go to prison to minister have a “captive audience”, that’s not always true either. At the prison where I minister, inmates have the choice to attend a church service or not to attend. It’s true some attend services to escape their boredom, to hook up with friends, add to the tally of their good behavior or simply to break up the routine. And, yet, others come because, like us, they are seeking an answer they hope they will find in God. I believe that God doesn’t care why they come; He’s just interested in reaching them while they are there.
The young lady I mentioned had recently given her heart to Jesus. The regret and remorse she felt for her actions were real. She’d accepted that the consequences of her actions that landed her in jail were justified and that she would be in jail for a long time. But night after night she was being tormented in her dreams. The anguish she had put people through and the separation from family that had resulted from what she did were weighing heavily on her. She just wanted some peace. Although she believed God had forgiven her she was still having trouble forgiving herself.
The Lord led me to share with her from 1 John 3:19-20 (NIV), “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.”
A condemning heart… sound familiar? Our adversary Satan loves to sit on our shoulders and just shout in our ears how worthless we are, how we will never amount to anything, how our actions are so bad we are not worthy of forgiveness much less redemption! He spouts off his accusations and does his best to convince us that everyone including God feels the same way about us. We have a hard time communicating with a loving Father God when our hearts condemn us.
But notice what this verse says, “This then is how we know [it’s saying this is how we can be assured, convinced, and have no doubt] that we belong to the truth,[who is the Truth but Jesus who declared it in John 14:6, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life!] and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence [this part of the verse deals with how we find the peace that alludes us] whenever our hearts condemn us [when we see and know the truth of our actions and when we know we are justifiably guilty. This scripture reads on, “… God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.” God is greater than our lack of assurance and hear this, He knows everything.
He was there when we sinned. He knows what we did and why we did what we did. He knows why we said what we said. He knows our hidden motives and the consequences that our actions will bring and yet…
Hear me, and yet…He forgives us! He has gone the extra mile and casts our sins as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) So I’ll ask you the question that I asked that young lady. Are you greater than God? If He can forgive you, how can you withhold forgiveness from yourself?
Romans 8:1 (KJV), “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” When Satan is in your ear shouting accusations, that’s condemnation and that’s not from God! Our Lord uses the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sins. He draws us to feel regret, remorse and sadness about our actions and He prods us to repent, to ask God for forgiveness. The Holy Spirit will never berate you. He just points you to Jesus where the truth of God’s word will cleanse you from sin.
I would like to share with you what I believe God allowed me to tell this young lady. It was a timely word for her life and perhaps it will minister to you also. The Holy Spirit prompted me to give her a confession when she was attacked in the days ahead. If you are struggling to forgive yourself, even though you know God has forgiven you. When the attack of condemnation comes, and it will come; when your heart condemns you and you feel you have no right to ask God anything. May I encourage you to say these words out loud, “God has forgiven me, so I forgive me!” You may have to say them over and over again, but I promise you that according to the Word of God, which cannot lie, these words will take root in your heart. It’s important to confess them out loud for Romans 10:17 (NKJV) reads, “[For] … faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” In those moments, Satan won’t be able to destroy the peace that only God can give you.
Remember, my friends, whenever your heart condemns you, “… God is greater than our hearts and He knows everything!”