May 31, 2009
I invite you to turn in your Bibles with me to the third epistle of the apostle John. The book we call Third John. Or as they say in England “Three John.” It’s at the back of your Bible, two books away from Revelation. If you get to Jude, you’ve too far. If you’ve found 4th John you’re reading the wrong Bible!
How many here have ever heard a sermon on 3 John (that they can remember)?
How many have ever read 3 John?
How many read it this week?
Some of you did. I did. Some of us are using a Bible reading plan that had us read 3 John on Thursday this week.
How many are still reading through the Bible in hopes of pancakes in January?
That’s awesome! There is still plenty of time to read the whole Bible by December 31st, even if you start today. Just take 8 chapters a day, and you’ll more than make it.
So, I was going through my Bible reading this week (‘cause I want pancakes, too!), and when I read 3 John, I immediately thought about our graduates.
The sermon series on money still needs time to bake in the oven–Lord-willing, we’ll start it officially next Sunday–and I’ve been looking for what in the Bible to preach on today while that’s still getting ready.
I could preach on prayer, as it is the Global Day of Prayer.
I could preach on the Holy Spirit, as it is Pentecost Sunday.
But, as I was reading 3 John, I saw several points of truth that the apostle John was sharing with his dear friend Gaius that I thought was worthy of sharing with our dear graduates. And they are all things that all of us need to hear.
So 3 John it is.
3 John is a personal letter from the apostle John (He calls himself “The Elder” meaning, I assume that he was an elder in the local church and was older and wiser in the truth–a letter from the Apostle John) to his dear friend Gaius–who appears to also be a leader in a local church that John knows about–perhaps that John planted.
It’s very short. One chapter. It would have all fit on one piece of papyrus.
3 John is a personal letter, but it obviously was meant to affect the local church that John cared about and that Gaius was a leader in. And eventually, it was circulated as part of Holy Scripture–part of God’s holy Word for us today.
It’s obvious just by reading it that Gaius was John’s dear friend.
Did you notice how many times he says that? V.1 “My Dear Friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth...”
v. 2, “Dear Friend”
v. 5, “Dear Friend”
v. 11, “Dear Friend” The King James says, “Beloved.”
V.13, he hopes to see him face to face. He sends greetings and peace.
John loved Gaius. He loved him in the truth. He was dear to him. A dear friend in Christ.
And out of that love for Gaius, John wanted good things for him. Look at verse 2.
“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”
And Graduates, that is our prayer for you, as well.
That you would enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul gets along well.
There is a desire here for both physical health and spiritual health.
And we want both for you, too.
We want blessing and prosperity and peace and health and spiritual growth for all of you.
We love you!
John loved Gaius, and he loved getting a good report about him. Look at verse 3.
“It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
Here’s life lesson #1 for our graduates and for all of us:
#1. WALK IN THE TRUTH.
It appears that some brothers (and possibly sisters) in Christ from Gaius’ church had been visiting John wherever he was, and they brought back a report that Gaius was walking in the truth.
He was (v.3) faithful to the truth and continuing to walk in the truth.
And what did that do for John?
Ooh! It brought him JOY! John says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
No greater joy! That’s an apostle speaking! “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
Now, Gaius was probably not John’s physical son. He may have been John’s spiritual son. John may have led Gaius to initial faith in Christ. We don’t know.
Regardless, John felt a paternal love for Gaius and others.
He thought of them as his “children.”
And I know that we think of you Graduates as our children, as well. As the children of the church.
And we have no greater joy that to hear and know that you are walking in the truth.
That’s how I feel about you, as well, church!
I know that I’m young enough to be many of your sons. But as your pastor, I also sometimes feel like your father. And I have no greater joy in ministry than to know that you are walking in the truth.
Walk in the truth.
But what does that mean?
Well, it starts with knowing the truth.
The truth of the Bible.
The Bible is full of truth. It isn’t just an ancient document that is irrelevant to our lives today. It is the very truth of God.
And to walk in the truth means that we must know what it says.
I’m excited that so many are reading their Bibles in 2009!
We’ve got to keep feeding ourselves the truth.
Since January, I’ve been heating our house with an outdoor wood burning furnace.
I never used a chainsaw until I turned 35 years old–now I count on my chainsaw to help me heat the house! I’m Matt “Chainsaw” Mitchell! [Don't look at this picture!]
We fired up the wood furnace for the first time on January 7th. And I thought that the salesman said that it would go 24 hours between feedings. And he did, but that’s in the Summer when it’s hot outside.
It can go 24 hours now in late May.
But in January, it can go about 12 or 14 hours.
Well, it’s the first week of using it. I filled it up on Thursday night at 5pm and went all night and got up in the morning and didn’t put anything in it (‘cause it can go 24 hours!), and I get into the shower, and brrrrrr! It was cold!
I go out to the furnace–open it up. And guess what I saw in the firebox?
If there is one thing you don’t want to see in your firebox, it’s icicles!
What was the problem? I wasn’t feeding the fire its fuel.
Bible is the fuel of truth for the fire of the Christian life.
I’m afraid that for many of us, if God opened up the firebox of our lives, He’d be looking at icicles!
We’ve got to feed our hearts with the fuel of God’s truth in the Bible.
And more than that, we have to burn it. We have to live it out.
That’s why John says to WALK in the truth.
Not just to know the truth. To know about the truth. To have lots of information.
But to WALK in it.
He’s talking about living out the truth. Applying it to our lives.
Graduates, God wants you to know His truth and then to apply it to your life.
To integrate truth with life.
So, every day, we need to ransack this book for truth and then not just agree with it, but to set the course of our lives by it.
Walk in the Truth.
This applies to every area of our life.
What jobs we do.
What schools we attend.
What relationships we develop.
What we do for fun.
Everything in our life relates to the truth.
Walk in the Truth. And it will GOD no greater joy!
Now, here’s specifically what was Gaius was up to.
He was using his home for hospitality to support traveling missionaries.
He knew the truth of the gospel–the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ, and he knew the need of the world to hear the gospel, and the need of missionaries for support in getting the word out.
And he applied that truth to his life. He opened up his home for cause of Christ. V.5
“Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.”
#2. WORK TOGETHER FOR THE TRUTH. V.5 again.
“Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you.”
I think what’s going on here is that Gaius has been opening up his home for traveling missionaries. He’s feeding them, giving them shelter, a stopping point, and probably some money for the next leg of their journey.
They are both brothers of his and strangers to him.
That is, they don’t go to his church. He’s never met them before.
But they are gospel brothers in Christ, and so he’s helping them.
Gaius had a heart for the mission.
Graduates, have a heart for the mission!
You know that the Lord has given us a mission, right? We are on a mission.
We are to make disciples of all nations in the Name (v.7) of Jesus!
And whatever we do in life, we are supposed to be faithful to the mission of Jesus Christ.
That might mean “going.” You should be open to the Lord’s call on you to go into career missions.
But it also might mean staying and supporting and sending. That’s just as needful in our world.
God is calling many people to take up full time jobs right here, not just to provide for their families but to provide for reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Working Together for the Truth.
What are you doing–what are you going to do–to advance the mission of Christ?
Graduates, what are you doing?
Don’t say, “Oh, I’m just 17, I can’t do anything for the mission.”
No. It’s your mission, too.
I love the fact that Amber has put on here that she wants to go to Africa someday on a missions trip.
I pray that that would happen.
But all of us right here, right now can be involved in this mission ourselves.
Giving, going, sending, supporting, praying, caring, writing.
Be faithful to the mission of the gospel.
It’s the greatest news in the world.
The news about a Savior who has come to rescue sinners from ourselves!
Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins so that we don’t have to!
He died on the Cross and then came back to life to give us life!
And all who turn and put their trust in Him will be saved!
That’s glorious news and we need to get the word out. That’s our mission.
And to build people up in the truth. To make disciples of Jesus Christ.
We all need to be faithful to the mission.
Not just to walk in the truth, but (v.8) “work together for the truth.”
We are in this gospel ministry, together.
I think that’s part of the point of the Global Day of Prayer. Praying for the whole world–together–that many would be reached with the gospel.
Gaius was doing it by opening His home.
We all need to figure out how we can work together for the truth of Christ.
#3. WATCH FOR GOOD EXAMPLES OF LIVING THE TRUTH.
In verse 9, John brings up a troublesome person. Diotrephes. V.9
“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first [Ouch! How would you like that on your tombstone?], will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.”
Here’s a problem person: Diotrephes.
He was gossiping. That’s a major sin in the Bible. He was refusing to welcome the brothers (like these missionaries we’ve been talking about), and he was even putting people out of the church who wanted to support missionaries and have fellowship with the apostle John!
Why? Why did he act like that?
Because Diotrephes (v.9) “loves to be first.” KJV: “Loveth to have the preeminence.”
At home, when my kids are being selfish, I tell them that they have “Diotrephes Disease.”
It’s an inordinate desire to be honored, to be first, to be number one.
Diotrephes had it bad. And the whole church suffered from it.
Unfortunately, I’ve had it myself many times. It’s bitter and not helpful to others.
And John was not going to have it. “That’s not walking in the truth!”
John is going to have to confront it when he visits this church.
There’s a warning for you! “I’m coming to talk to you, Diotrephes!”
And here’s where John goes this with this.
He says, “Don’t be like him.” v.11
“Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.”
He’s saying, “Pick your heroes carefully.”
Find good examples to follow.
Don’t imitate Diotrephes. He’s got a disease. It’s a disease that plagues America, but it’s a disease to flee from.
“Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.”
Now this is not saying that anyone who ever sins isn’t a Christian. That’s not what he’s talking about.
He’s talking about a settled pattern of life.
Diotrephes might be orthodox, but he’s not walking in the truth.
And if that describes, that characterizes, your life, then you can have no assurance that you have truly seen and known God through Jesus Christ.
Jesus didn’t put Himself first. He put us ahead of Him at the Cross.
And that’s how we’re supposed to live now.
Graduates, put other people first in your life. Find a career path where you can serve others.
Don’t just find a job that feeds you money.
Money is good. We’ll talk about money all Summer.
Money is good–especially for supporting the mission!
But money is not good at just feeding our desires.
We need to put other people first.
Don’t be like Diotrephes!
Be like Demetrius. That’s what John says next. V.12
“Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone–and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.”
Notice the emphasis on truth. Truth, truth, truth.
Walking in the truth, working together in the truth, and watching for good examples of those living out the truth.
I think that John is contrasting Demetrius with Diotrephes.
Do not imitate what is evil (Diotrephes) but what is good (Demetrius–everyone agrees that he’s good–we do, even the truth does!).
Make Demetrius your example.
Notice that it’s right to follow other people. To imitate other people.
It’s natural and normal for us to have heroes, leaders, examples–people that we aim to be like in some ways.
Now, we shouldn’t want to be clones.
Don’t be a clone!
But we are supposed to see what is good and right and helpful and wise and loving in someone else (a hero), and strive (by faith) to be like them.
Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
John is saying, “Watch for Good Examples of Those Who Live Out the Truth.”
My Dear Friend Gaius, watch Demetrius. He’s doing it right. Follow him.
Who are your heroes?
Graduates, you should have heroes. In fact, I’m sure you have them.
The question is are they godly? Are they more like Diotrephes or Demetrius?
Is your hero one of the bad boys of the NBA or the NFL?
Or they are self-less Christian athletes who don’t get all of the same press, but are worth following?
Or is your hero someone in your career field who makes tons of money but spends it all on themselves. Or someone who works hard but is generous?
We all have heroes. The question is whether they are Diotrephes or Demetrius.
John the Elder wants us to watch for examples of those who are living out the truth.
This room is full of them. Grad, if you are looking for heroes and examples, you can’t do much better than what’s right here.
But wherever you find them, find them!
Watch for Good Examples of Those Who Live out the Truth.
John wants to say more. I want to say more.
But he says, “Let’s do it face to face.” V.13
“I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.”
Let’s have lunch together today, dear friends. And let’s have our joy increase as we, together:
∙ Walk in the Truth
∙ Work Together For the Truth
∙ And Watch for Godly Examples of Those Who Live Out the Truth.