Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. 20 Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.
21 Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence.22 And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.
23 And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. 24 Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us. – 1 John 3:18-24 [NLT]
Maybe you know someone who is always promising to do something, making excuses for why he did’t, or blaming others for his failures. Perhaps you are tempted to do this yourself. You can face any challenge, other than being thought by others to be deficient, letting them down. So excuses come all too easily. It’s like cheap grace, repentance without true contrition, and without its fruits.
Talk is cheap. I believe that is why Jesus said, “Go learn with this means, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice.'” (Matthew 9:13) This reveals yet another manner in which we cheapen faith: by talking about what we believe, know we should do, leaving it as only that. Telling your wife that you love her but failing to do anything to show that love, or worse yet ignoring her in her time of need is a lie.
But what shall we do when we realize we have failed despite our greatest efforts to love, to obey, and to honor God. Whether in a moment of weakness, a fury of anger, a daze of forgetfulness, or even a lack of dedication – we all fail. Thankfully God knows all about us and has committed himself to forgive us and sustain us when we falter.
The command to which John points in these verses is to believe. I understand this as the intentional side of faith. Faith is a deep trust in the heart, the foundation of our relationship. It’s like knowing where home is, and believing that good things await us there. Believing is acting on that faith, going home. Living there with confidence that we belong, and even taking responsibility for our part of making the home work.
Through the Holy Spirit we have the confidence that we have a home with God. Faith is knowing that deep in our souls. Believing that is actively living that out because we know Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.