1 John 3:16-24 – “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
Audience survey time… How many of you are certain that God hears you when you pray? How many of you fell hesitant, maybe even bashful when you open your heart before God in prayer? How many of you wish that there was some way to be able to approach God with great openness and confidence when you pray?
It is amazing to me, in fact, I suppose you could say that I never ceased to be amazed at how very practical and up-to-date the word of this Book are… Being able to pray more freely, more openly, more confidently, from our little audience survey it would seem that that is a desire of many of our hearts. And yet, perhaps like me, you wonder how? Is it possible for me to be able to pray like that, to pray like Jesus prayed? And, if so, what steps must I take for it to happen?
Confidence, boldness, openness – think of it, will you, my loved ones? Confidence, boldness, openness, as verse 20 of our text indicates, before the God Who is greater than our hearts, and Who knows our hearts! Is that possible? Can you and I really experience that, or – is it merely a pipe dream? I want to know, how about you? I need to know, I do – how about you?
Confidence, boldness, openness before God, in prayer. Before we go any further, allow me to point out this one very crucial fact, that we all must keep in mind – confidence before God is NOT a servant’s privilege! It’s not!
Rather, confidence in prayer, being able to address the God of the universe by the tender name ABBA, is strictly and only a son’s privilege! A daughter’s privilege! And so, though this may be a rather unusual place to be discussing it, you know, at the beginning of the message rather than at the end, at decision time – right up front, what you and I need to be completely aware of and understanding of is this simple, but foundational fact pertaining to prayer: confidence, boldness – yes, even openness – before the Father is a privilege reserved only for son and for daughters! If God is not your Father, by way of the New Birth, then simply put, you don’t have that privilege. But listen, my friends – don’t change channels just yet! If you are not a child of God, if this is not your prayer privilege, it can be! It can be! That’s what the cross of Christ is all about! That’s what Resurrection Day, the Lord’s day, the first day of the week is all about! It is! It is all about slaves to sin, prisoners to guilt and shame – who, outside of Jesus Christ have not standing, on opening, no access to the God of the universe - receiving that precious gift of son-ship, and with it, access to God through faith in Jesus Christ! Confidence before God is prayer, don’t switch channels on me just yet, will you? This message can be for you, too!
1 John 3:16-24, and the theme, the subject of confidence, boldness, openness before God in prayer – is this a pipe dream? Is it a make a wish and blow out the candles sort of thing? Or, is it really conceivable, that you and I could really experience this privilege?
Beloved, I’m looking at this passage, I’m looking at the words in this Book given to us by the Holy Spirit, and you know what I’m seeing? I’m seeing that it IS possible! That children of God really can call upon their Father without fear or shame, and with confidence!
But, how? How? Well, before you and I get very much deeper into this subject, allow me to point out something to you right up front – being able to come to your Father in heaven with boldness and openness – what picture do you have in mind when you think of what we’re discussing here?
Well, allow me to paint a picture in your minds for just a moment. Imagine yourself at Wal
Oh, we know he’s sitting in that cart, ever so quiet, minding his own business – right? No! He’s standing on his tippy toes, stretching out to the shelf, and screaming, “Daddy, can I have it? Can I have it, Daddy? Can I, huh?” “Settle down, Tommy,” the little guy’s daddy exhorts – still half way looking at something else. “Daddy, can I have it?” You know the little fellow wasn’t going to take Daddy’s response as his final answer – right? “Can I have it, Daddy? Can I, huh?” “Settle down, Tommy!” Back and forth it goes for 3, 4 maybe 5 minutes, until finally, after several more whiny, pouty, crying outbursts, Daddy gives in. Little Tommy gets what he wants!
Okay, You’ve had your opportunity to use your imagination, now let’s come back to reality, and ask: is that kind of scenario – spoiled brat kid and push-over daddy – what we’re looking at here in the Word of God?
Before I answer that straightforwardly, allow me to direct your attention to the text here, that we might see what God says is necessary to experience confidence before Him in prayer: number one – what must I do, what do I need to ask myself, if I would enjoy boldness and openness with my Father, my ‘Abba’?
Number one – I must ask myself, “Am I loving my fellow Christian the way Jesus loves me? Am I loving like Jesus loves?”
Great question, right? A question that pertains to what we have called the Social or Relational test of our commitment to Christ. “Am I loving like Christ loves?” Great question, but where am I to find an answer to this question? 1 John 3:16ff – Read it again with me, would you?
1 John 3:16-21: ““By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.”
Do you want to enjoy, not the pouty, whiny Wal-Mart shouting match, but confidence, boldness – yes, even openness – before God in prayer? Then, here’s how: you and I must be loving our brothers and sisters in Christ the way Jesus loves them – He laid down His life for them! We ought to do the same! He loved in deed, and in truth, opened up a gracious heart to them in their time of need, we must do the same. We must do the same, if we would enjoy this boldness in prayer!
Secondly, if you and I really want to be able to confidently approach our God, our King, our Father, in prayer, take note – then we must OBEY Him, like Jesus did! We must obey our Father, our Daddy, like Jesus did!
I want you to think for a moment about two of the high points, two of milestones made known to us in Scripture that occurred during the years Jesus walked on this earth. I’m talking about Him baptism in the river Jordan at the hands of John the Baptist, and His transfiguration before the eyes of Peter, James and John, on top of that mountain. Think about both of those milestone events in Jesus’ life, and ask yourself – what stands out? What stands out in those events?
To me, perhaps more than all the other aspects of those events, what stands out is this one major part: the Voice from heaven! The words spoken by the Father, about His Son, “This is My Beloved Son, in Him I am well-pleased!” Now, friends, let’s ask ourselves – what was it that prompted God the Father to say all of that about God the Son? “Whaa! Whaa! Can I have it, Daddy, can I have it? Can I have it, huh?” Is that what caused God to say what He said about Jesus? Spoiled-brat kid and push-over Daddy? No! What prompted the Father to be pleased with the Son was His obedience! Obedience! My Loved Ones, we want to be able to approach our Heavenly Father with boldness, don’t we? But, how?
1 John 3:19-22: “And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”
Confidence before God – am I obeying Him, like Jesus obeyed Him?
Then, thirdly, what steps must I take to avail myself to the bold and unhindered access to God’s throne of grace in prayer? Take a look again at verses 20 – 23. So far we’ve learned that to be confident before our Father in haven we must LOVE the brethren the way Jesus loves! Not merely in word or in tongue, but in action and in truth! Then, next, we observed that to have an assured heart, an open and shame-free heart before God, we must DO what Jesus did! We must keep God’s commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight! The step of obedience must also be taken, the moral or behavioral test, as it is called, must be passed!
But, what else? There’s one more step we must take if we would enjoy confidence before God in prayer. It pertains to the third signpost of son-ship. Do you remember what it is?
1 John 3:19-23: And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
The third and final step on the path to confident prayer is faith! We must trust in and believe on the name of God’s Son Jesus Christ! To put it bluntly, the unbeliever, he has no such confidence before God! In fact, in effect, he has set himself up as God!
Confidence, boldness, openness in prayer – do I believe in, trust in, the One in whom God says I must trust? That’s the step of faith, the Doctrinal Test. Step two – am I loving my fellow Christian as Jesus loves them? That’s the step of love – active, need-meeting love, the Relational test. And, then step three – am I obeying my Father in heaven, as Jesus obeyed Him?
Confidence in prayer – it sounds so simple, you know, step one, step two, step three. But, listen, before we close, allow me to remind you of two underlying principles that, without them, we could have one step or a zillion steps, and still not experience that confidence before God in prayer.
What are those principles?
Principle #1 – It’s one I call the Principle of Alignment. When I was an elementary school student, we used to play a game called ‘Follow the Leader’. It was a game, if you’ve ever played it, of imitation. Whatever the leader did, the followers in like manner were to do.
It was a fun game, and a game that would go along quite smoothly until, some freckle-faced, curly-headed little boy, would get the bright idea that he wanted to do things his way! Then, before you know it, the whole game would fall apart! The Principle of Alignment and the underlying ingredients of submission and humility, what are they? They are what hold the Follow the Leader game together. More importantly, those words spoken from a truly humble submissive heart, those alignment words, “Not my will, but thine be done,” what are they? They are what hold this thing called confident payer together!
The Alignment Principle, the confident pray-er is the person [1 John 5:14] whose heart’s desire is that of Jesus, “Father, I’m asking this in faith, yes, but I’m also asking this in accordance with Your will.”
Then finally, let us also always remember, not only the Alignment Principle, but the Intercession Principle. What do we mean by the Intercession Principle? You know it, don’t you? Hebrews 4:14-16 – “We have a great High Priest, Who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.” Yes, we have a High Priest Who truly can sympathize with our weaknesses because He was tempted in every way that we are tempted – yet He remained sinless. He didn’t falter or fall into sin. So what? Listen to what comes after the THEREFORE in Hebrews 4:16 – We have a great High Priest in heaven, Jesus the Son of God. And we have a fully sympathetic High Priest, because when He was on earth He was fully tempted, but remained faithful all the way through – so what? So, THEREFORE, “let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we might obtain mercy, and find grace to help us in our hour of need.”
Confidence, boldness, openness before our Father, our Abba, in prayer – is it possible? It IS possible, in keeping with two principles.
Number one, the Alignment Principle – 1 John 4:17.
“But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” – 1 John 4:17
And, in keeping with principle number two: the Intercession Principle. We have a great High Priest Who has gone through the heavens and is seated at God’s right hand - Jesus Christ the Righteous.