When most people come to Jesus, they have such an amazing experience receiving the grace of God, they almost expect for life to always feel as great as the day they got saved. But for most, this feeling usually doesn’t last long before we’re right back to struggling with some of the same issues we had before we knew Christ.
Why is that? Simply put, our beliefs are very difficult to overcome and to change. Think about the chasm we had to cross to even come to believe in Jesus in the first place. If believing in Jesus were easy, then everyone would do it!
Yet sadly, we know that most people end up rejecting the life Jesus has to offer, because it’s extremely difficult to be convinced of information that does not presently line up with something we already believe.
This is why as a Christian the number one activity we can never stop engaging in is persuading our heart to believe what the Bible says to be true.
Of course this is no easy task, especially when we become a Christ-follower, because now, instead of having two parts of us (our soul and our spirit) living uniformly (albeit in darkness,) now that our Spirit has been made alive in Christ, it wages war against our flesh! (Romans 7:15-20)
So while in our inward being we desire to do right by God, we have another portion of our heart at work, our soulish realm, which requires renewal in order to conform into the image of God. (Romans 12:2)
This is where the greatest challenge of our Christian walk will take place.
Consider the story in Mark 9 when Jesus came across a young boy who was possessed by an evil spirit.
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus.
“Everything is possible for Him who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Emphasis added)
The boy’s father expressed, what I think is at the heart of every challenge to believe the truth; part of us believes, but the other part wonders if what Jesus claims is really true.
It’s like saying, “Yes, I believe. But if I’m honest, I also have my doubts.”
And I think that’s where so many Christians are when it comes to believing the promises of God.
Unfortunately, the wishy-washy back and forth attitude we sometimes have with the word of God, not only prevents us from experiencing God’s truth in its fullness, but it puts in a precarious position of feeling guilty that part of us doesn’t really believe God, or take him at his word on certain issues.
This position creates a myriad of other problems, as it brings condemnation upon us, which inevitably leads us to distancing ourselves from God, instead of coming closer to him in times of need.
Thankfully, we’ve been given instruction regarding how we can overcome this dichotomy in our hearts, and the first step is resting in God’s presence.
Look at what John wrote in 1 John 3:19;
“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts,…”
John is saying two very important things. First, he’s telling the reader that a clear indication that we belong to the truth, is that our hearts will actually condemn us!
Again, this may seem counterintuitive, since we assume that once we’re in Christ, we should feel pretty good about ourselves. But what John is revealing is that when we belonged to the world and our hearts were darkened in our understanding, both our soul and our spirits, were actually operating in unison – they were both rejecting the truth of the word. In essence, in this state, we in effect experience no conflict between these two realms, since both parts of the heart are equally separated from Christ.
But when we become a believer, 1/3 of us becomes the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus! (2 Corinthians 5:21) Consequently, if there is any part of our mind, will or emotions which is not renewed to this spiritual reality, we will feel condemned. This is because whenever the Spirit shines the light of his truth onto the dark places of our hearts, our sin or unbelief is exposed and we feel bad about it.
For this precise reason John explains how we can navigate through challenging times as unbelievers, and that is, whenever our hearts condemn us, or tell us that we do not measure up to Christ’s standard, we are to “set our hearts at rest in his presence,” because “God is greater than our hearts,…” What amazing news is this?
What John described in this passage is the first fundamental principle that needs to exist in order for us to persuade our heart to believe the truth of God’s word. Without activating this principle the moment we feel condemned, Christians unnecessarily suffer by becoming bound to state of mind that will never position them to overcome the faulty beliefs of their heart.
Whenever we encounter the Word of God, and a little voice within us rises up and says, “That’s not true,” or “That can’t be true all the time,” or “That couldn’t work for me,” we have just exposed an area of our heart that has not fully conformed to the truth of the word.
Inevitably the very next thing that happens is that we will begin to feel condemned that we don’t believe in that truth. And, if we have not learned to set our heart at rest in the presence of God, knowing that God is greater than our heart, we will run and hide from him every time, and NEVER get a victory over our thoughts, emotions, or feelings.
And notice what John says is the outcome for those who are able to set their hearts at rest in God’s presence:
“…if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask,…” (1 John 3:21)
So, let’s get real here for a second – when’s the last time you asked God for something and knew with 100% confidence you would receive what you asked of him?
If the answer is, “I can’t remember,” or worse yet, “Never,” then consider you might be dealing with issues of condemnation that are preventing your heart from believing God.
Next time you’re reminded of a biblical truth, and you hear that small voice inside rise up to say, “But! But! But!,” just quietly tell the Lord, “Jesus, I know this is true, because your word never lies. Please help me believe not only that this is true, but that this is true for me. I believe. Help my unbelief.”