Responding to Doubt

1 John 3:19-24

Times when very thankful not made like those weather prediction gadgets: stick points up for fair weather, down for rain; changes color from red to blue. Think what life wouild be like for the Christian if all had some kind of indicator or color coding that told everyone what sort of spiritual weather condition were in. Be honest, not every day in Christian life is blue skies and sunshine with gentle breezes and warm temperatures. Sometimes gets downright stormy, even questionable.

You know the times: just read one of those groups of verses that says believers don’t continue in sin – last few hours / days / weeks have been one failure after another, time and again doing what displeases God. Not big stuff, still sin, though. Or a few days when prayers hit ceiling and fall back down, if they even go that high. Or you keep running into those people you’re supposed to love, but… turn down aisle in store and hope didn’t see you, check caller id and pretend not to be home. Someone you’ve trusted as spiritual teacher for very long time gets really weird, begin to wonder if you got sucked into wrong way of belief.

Doubts begin, start to wonder “am I really a Christian? If I really were, then….” Talking serious doubt here, not momentary blip / fleeting thought that quickly passes. Sort of situation more you think about it, more doubts grow. More they grow, more it bothers you, to think maybe you’re not true believer. That’s good – unbeliever doesn’t think that way, isn’t genuinely concerned about those things. Doubt can also serve as corrective for overactive self-confidence. So how can / should child of God respond to doubt in way that is helpful and biblical?

A. Answer your conscience v.19-20

don’t ignore or dismiss conscience

conscience – moral sense of right and wrong – we possess because image-bearers

not infallible – can be twisted / distorted, but is present and functional in all mankind

should never be ignored: if conscience indicates there might be a problem, check it out

check the evidence

look for love: know what the standard is, God’s definition of true love

is that kind of love present in you and evident in your life?

notice question is about kind, not amount or depth

do you: love Jesus, love his church, love his people

look for righteousness: know what the standard is, God’s definition of right and wrong

is that kind of behavior present in your life?

is it becoming more the norm? sinful behavior decreasing daily?

look for family resemblance: know whose picture is on family portrait – Lord Jesus

is there a genuine likeness present? do others recognize you as belonging to Christ?

is likeness increasing daily – through study, prayer, fellowship with believers?

These characteristics genuinely present at even very low level but regularly growing indicate presence of spiritual life – fruit hanging off the plant identifies kind of plant

John 21:15-17 – appeal to God’s knowledge

Jesus warned – you will all fall away because of me (Matt. 26:31); Peter responded, even if they all do, I won’t (Matt. 26:33)

now Jesus asks, ok Peter, is that really true, do you really love me more than they do?

3rd time Jesus asked, caused great hurt – Peter smarting, conscience accusing him along with Jesus’ questions

best answer Peter can come up with – Lord, you know all things; you know my heart, my love is genuine, my grief is real, my words are inadequate, actions accusatory – look at my heart, help me with my words and deeds

when external evidence is not enough to convince us, to overrule accusing conscience: appeal to one who knows all things, who has told us in Word – one who believes will be saved, one who confesses will be forgiven, one who is reconciled is at peace with God

B. Rest in God v.21-22

we have a Savior – see Rom. 8:1

do you trust in Christ’s righteousness, not your own, to satisfy God? have you repented, sought his forgiveness?

if Christ is your savior, if you are joined to him by faith, can rest confidently in God’s promise:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

chapter goes on to say: nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (v.39)

means you can come confidently into Father’s presence – knowing God does not condemn removes hesitation to approach, to converse, to fellowship

we have a track record of trust and answered prayer

granted requests are confirmation of obedience, success in pleasing God

not rewards for good behavior, not things we have earned – all God’s gifts to his children are gracious, given because he loves

are indicators – synchronized thinking, prioritizing

thinking way God thinks, setting priorities he would approve – evident in behavior

means desires are for things God approves – of course he will grant when asked

C. Exercise faith and love v.23

“commandment” singular – one command, two parts; distinguishable but inseparable

true belief will be accompanied by love for other Christians

true love for other Christians will be fruit of true belief in Christ

God’s command is to do both, simultaneously, ongoing

have believed, do believe, will go on believing

active faith that describes a way of life, not single event

what the believer must possess, not have exercised once, in order to please God – Heb. 11:6

it’s the faith that Paul speaks of: “By grace are you saved through faith”

it’s the belief that God exists and rewards those who seek him

it’s the trust that has no room for uncertainty and results in answered prayer (James 1:6)

do love brethren

another reminder of how much John was influenced by Jesus’ farewell teaching night he was betrayed

was certainly integral part of John’s thinking – love that sent Jesus to cross, love that draws each person into relationship with Christ, to be both motivation and example

greatest and second commandment, distinguishable but inseparable

pass the test?? then…. you’re the real deal

D. Prove your sonship v.24

obedience, especially willing and delighted, guaranteed indicator

union with Christ frees from condemnation of law, not expected obedience to God’s commands

unbeliever chafes under, fights, rebels against God’s law; believer is thankful for it, loves to obey it

remember: believers have a yoke, a burden – it’s easy yoke, light burden (Matt. 11:28-30), in company of absolute best master-yoke-fellow, Lord Jesus

indicator for us to use on ourselves primarily

desire to obey God’s command from loving desire to please him – sure sign of true believer

crying out to God as “Father” a second indicator – see Rom. 8:15-16Matt. 27:50

is Holy Spirit present in your life? remember thing about fruit?

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control Gal. 5:22-23

same Spirit identified as “Spirit of adoption”

because he is present and active – we cry out to God as Father expecting to be heard

we experience inner confidence of relationship

work of Holy Spirit in life is obvious across the spectrum

enabling / equipping to meet God’s expectations beyond simple human ability

belief in Christ

love for God and brethren

obedience to God’s commands

Especially important in day when there are lots of conflicting authorities, lots of pretenders: need confidence about standing with God, hope for future. Confidence must be based on real foundation, one that will withstand all sorts of assaults. Including those from our own doubts. If you haven’t experienced them yet, you will – if you’re a true child of God. If you are right now, or when you do, take heart from John’s wise counsel. Do as J M Boice, Philadelphia pastor for many years, exhorts: “The Christian must simply take himself in hand and confront himself with what he knows to be true concerning God and God’s work in his life.”

Don’t let doubt come between you and heavenly Father – go to him, tell about it, ask his help with it. Regardless of what’s happening, remember Lord Jesus is friend that sticks closer than a brother, his father and our father always ready to hear prayers of his children when they sincerely seek his help.

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