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, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God … 1 John 3:19-22
“God is greater than our hearts and he knows everything.” Are those the two most obvious statements you’ve ever heard, or what? He is better than us and knows better than we do. So far nothing new. You gotta know that John must’ve meant that he’s greater than our hearts in some specific way and knows everything about something in particular.
My heart has terribly limited peripheral vision. Without the help of the Spirit my heart either focuses on my flaws or my future, but not both in the same frame. I either feel shame about the past or wishful thinking about the future, but unaided, I can’t see how one could possibly lead to the other. Fortunately God can see more than one frame at a time. He’s greater than my heart and knows everything.
He knows my flaws and how to fix them
There’s this specific matter of our hearts being restless with condemnation. When we’re in that condition evidently there are things that God knows that we don’t.
First of all, we can be sure that God already knew about the mistakes we’ve made. He knows everything better than our conscience and our heart. Knowing our missteps is a no-brainer for him. He knew those before we made them. He saw them before they happened in time. That’s easy. That’s a batting practice pitch, slow and over the plate.
But more than just the execution of our sins, he sees them coming. He sees what brings them about, watches each scenario unfold, knows our flaws and how our foe exploits them. On his stakeouts he observes the sly one lower the bait in front of us and watches us swim by it, and swim past again. He winces when we nibble at it and when we swallow it along with the hook. He’s “greater than your heart and knows everything.” He sees what we can’t – or won’t. When we are convicted, it’s because he gives us that gift. When we confess, we’re just saying what he’s been saying to us. He saw the whole thing, the whole process. There’s still no surprise there.
What else does God’s supervision take in? Plenty actually. Our screw-ups include more than a simple temptation. Even the Tempter knows this, in fact, that’s what makes him so good at his job. We all seem to carry around attitudes in our minds and wounds in our souls that make us even more vulnerable to take the bait. If you’ve got a bad ankle you’re more likely to trip on a treacherous narrow trail. Jesus knows these things before, during, and after each embarrassing fall. No doubt, way ahead of time, at a moment of intimacy, he whispered an offer of healing of the soul or issued a warning of that slippery place up ahead. But our pain wasn’t acute enough at the time to warrant our concern.
He’s greater than our hearts and knows everything. He saw what was happening behind the scenes as the trap unfolded. He doesn’t always step in and prevent our fall, but be sure that he knew it ahead of time. He’s in control, but not controlling. But that’s still not nearly the extent of his greatness or his superior knowledge.
He knows better than we do not only about our flaws and failures, but about the fix, the only fix for them. He knows the extent and the full effect of how his Son stood in between our past and future, how he paid for our past and made a way into our future. If anyone gets it, God does. He planned the substitution, sent the Substitute, and is fully satisfied with what Jesus did in our place. The Father gets it because he orchestrated it. Jesus got it and said, “It is finished.” The Spirit understands it. He’s the one who opens our eyes to it. He knows everything.
When my heart is “at rest in his presence” it’s because I know a piece of what he knows. But, wait, there’s more that he knows and what makes him greater than my heart. It gets better, so wait for the next part…