God is greater than your heart. And he knows everything.

The prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things.” And the person it deceives is you. And that is not good. “The heart is deceitful above all things,” he wrote. Then it gets worse. He continues, “…and beyond cure.” Then he adds, “Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) Answer? “I, the LORD, search the heart and examine the mind.” (Jer.17:10a) And John gives the cure, “And God is greater than your heart and he knows everything.”

So what does he know about our lying hearts that YOU need to know? Four things.

First thing is this–God knows that your heart, like mine, regularly needs to get shook up. Because our hearts get comfortable with sin, especially the sin of being preoccupied with ME. Get comfortable with that mindset, and you become a poser. And the road to hell is crowded with Christian posers.

Because genuine faith is authentic. John is very clear about that. “Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth”. Authentic. The word for “love” that John uses here is “agape”—that’s the Greek word for the kind of love that is preoccupied with what is in other people’s best interests, not just your own. When you are showing authentic agape love, then words like, “inconvenient” and “nuisance” and even “I don’t have the time” start to disappear from your vocabulary. They get replaced by a single question that you use in most every situation—how can I be useful to this person right now?

And if that is not the question you are continually asking yourself (or some variation of that question) then you have to ask yourself this question, “Am I even a Christian? Or am I a poser?” This is meant to shake us up. Move us to repent daily. Because God knows that our lying hearts easily become comfortable with sin. And that will make your faith as cold as a tombstone, and just as dead. So he keeps shaking our hearts up with his law, moving us by his Spirit to daily repent of our sin and remind God of our baptism, when he washed away our sin.

“God is greater than your heart and he knows everything.” So what does he know about our lying hearts that YOU need to know? Four things.

Second thing is this—he knows how hard it can be for us to forgive ourselves. John goes on, “This then is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.”

At our District Convention in 2016, Prof. Daniel Deutschlander shared this story to illustrate how hard it can be to forgive ourselves, and how foolish not to forgive ourselves in light of what Christ has done for us. He said, “A man dies and is sitting alone in a waiting room. In front of him are two massive doors leading into God’s courtroom. As he sits there, he realizes he has sinned many times in his life. So he comes up with his list of excuses and explanations. Then his name is called. He gets up, the massive doors open, and he steps into the courtroom and sees the glory of the Lord. And he instantly realizes that his excuses and explanations are a house of cards. His memory attacks him with all the thoughtless things he did, all the painful words he threw out at others, all the shameful things he did in secret. So the man says the only thing he can say, “I am guilty, O Lord, and without excuse.” God says, “I know. That is why I sent my Son to die and rise again for you.” He says, “The door on my right leads into heaven.” Then the man notices there is also a door on the left. He asks, “Where does that lead?” And God says, “To hell.” The man hesitates for just a moment and then rushes through the door on the left. For while God forgave the man, he could not forgive himself.”

How foolish, eh? How unnecessary. But God knows this about our hearts, our lying hearts. How cruel our memories can be. How, as John writes, our hearts can “condemn us.” And so he devised not just one, not just two, but three ways to give us his forgiveness and salvation–with his Word AND at our Baptism AND in the Lord’s Supper. The same forgiveness and salvation each time. The same forgiveness and salvation that Jesus won on the cross 2000 years ago. But in three ways. One with words so you can hear it over and over again in the Gospel and in the Absolution; the second with water so each time you wash your hands clean you can be reminded of how God made your soul clean at your baptism; and the third with food so that you can know that this forgiveness earned by Jesus on the cross is as real as the taste of the bread and wine for that bread and wine is also his body and blood that earned your forgiveness and salvation on the cross. Three ways. And “this is how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts and he knows everything.”

That’s the second thing that God knows about our lying hearts. The third is—he knows how our lying hearts doubt the power of prayer. And so John wrote, “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us (because of Christ and his forgiveness given us in his Word, Baptism and Supper), we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him”—which refers to Christ, doesn’t it—for Christ obeyed God’s commands for us perfectly and always did what pleased God, and did it for us, as our Substitute.

Which means that by faith in Christ you can pray confidently, pray like a loved child not like a needy sinner. As Luther put it in the Catechism about the Address of the Lord’s Prayer, “…(we can) ask our heavenly Father as boldly and confidently as dear children ask their dear father.” And be confident he will definitely answer—not with any old answer, but with the best answer possible.

“God is greater than your heart and he knows everything.” So what does he know about our lying hearts that YOU need to know? Four things.

And the fourth thing is for you Christians who have some mileage on you. You Christians who have been trying for years to show agape-love to those around you, for years have been trying to be authentic, for years have been trying to control your ego and your appetites. And you know the results, you that that the results are very mixed. What God knows about you is that deep inside, part of you sometimes fearfully wonders, has God gotten tired of me? Maybe given up on me?

Like a woman married 14 years might feel about her marriage. It’s Friday night, she’s getting dressed to go to her husband’s company’s party. And she’s trying extra hard to look her best. See, she’s been feeling very insecure lately. After 14 years of marriage, she has suddenly realized that what she always had thought of as her “endearing quirks” are actually annoying habits that make living with her not that easy. And after four children, well, nothing fits like it used to. Her husband suddenly walks into the room. And she impulsively turns and asks, with her voice full of emotion, “How do I look?” But what she’s really saying is, “I am needy. I’m vulnerable. Please tell me that you don’t regret loving me.” And I wonder, will her husband hear what is behind her question?

I don’t know. But I do know that God hears what is in the Christian’s heart. And so he wrote for us, “Those who obey his commands (again, this refers to Christ and how his obedience is credited to us by faith) live in him and he in them.” Live, like a home, not a house. The Greek verb here means live, as in remain, abide. The theologians have a neat sounding name for this fact that God actually lives in a believer. The term is, “the mystical union.” What it means is that when God moves into the heart of a believer, which for many of us was the day of our baptism, he showed up at the door with three pieces of luggage. One was filled with all the love he has to give. The second was filled with all the forgiveness he has to give. The third was filled with all the salvation that he has to give. He will never give up on you, never stop loving you, will never move out, that’s his promise. Unless. Unless, you make him leave by neglecting worship and his Word or by becoming comfortable with sin. Lord, keep us from such distracted foolishness!

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah wrote. (Jer. 17:9) Answer? “I, the LORD, search the heart and examine the mind.” (Jer.17:10a) And John has the conclusion, “And God is greater than ours heart and he knows everything.” Isn’t it good that what WE need to know for our lying hearts our Lord has shared in his Word, in Baptism, and in his Supper? Amen.