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3 John

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7/28/1990
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3 John
3 John
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64 3 John - 1990

Third John is a personal letter. The apostle commends some individuals for their goodness and denounces another for his pride. Skip Heitzig explains the background of this short book.

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The third John shows us three different types of personalities: Gaius, Diatrophius, who is proud and unbending, and finally Demetrius. It's a short book; it's easy to get through. It begins by saying, "The elder (that's the apostle John) to the beloved, Gaius, whom I love in truth." Now John was the apostle of love and he used that word frequently and he used the word "beloved" frequently. In fact, in the epistle, he uses it 4 times in speaking of Gaius. "You are beloved". He loved personal relationships with people. And he didn't look at a church as a group of people but a bunch of individuals, whom he loved personally. They were beloved to him. "Beloved" is a word in the New Testament that is used of a person who has a unique relationship of faithfulness to the Lord. It's more than just a greeting, or a surface kind of relationship- it's a special relationship. When God spoke about Jesus, it was His only beloved Son, His begotten Son, "this is my beloved Son," He said, "in whom I am well pleased".

You know God loves the entire world. Sinner and saint, He loves us all unconditionally. But God has a special love for His children. We’re His beloved children, just as Gaius was a beloved person in the eyes of the apostle John. And he says, “whom I love in truth, beloved I pray that you may prosper and be in health, just as your soul prospers, for I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy, than to hear that my children walk in truth.” In other words, I get blessed out of my socks when I know that those I have led to the Lord are growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. That old truth that we said at the beginning, “God loves you the way you are but He loves you too much to leave you that way”. And when John saw those people growing, it excited him.

Now, in verse two, he uttered a common greeting, and I want to underline that because there is a teaching going around today. It is known as the Faith Teaching, or the Health and Wealth Teaching, and the teachers will take that verse and they’d quote it completely out of context, they’d miss the interpretation of scripture and they’ll look at that and they’ll say, “well verse two is a proof text that Christians should always enjoy perfect health and never be sick and walk in perfect healing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 months of the year.” What they either willing neglect, or just by the fact that they don’t understand Bible interpretation is that that is just a common greeting when John wrote this epistle. He wasn't saying that every Christian will always be healthy, he was saying, “Gaius, my heart’s desire is that you’re spiritually healthy. You’re Mr. Flex, Mr. Muscle when it comes to the spiritual law. And if you could be physically as well off as you are spiritually, I wish that for you.” Many scholars believe that Gaius was a little bit ill, and he was physically sick, and this was like a Get Well card. But even secular letters, non-Christian letters from the time of the New Testament, record the exact same greeting. It’s like saying, “you know, I hope you’re doing good and you’re prospering and everything is going well and you feel great.” But it certainly doesn't mean that it’s God’s will that you always walk in perfect health and if you don’t you’re living a Satan-defeated life and you don’t have enough faith. To get that out of the text, you've got to put something into it. You have to force an interpretation on it. It’s simply saying, “I just hope you’re doing great.”

“For I rejoiced greatly.” By the way, think of that for just a minute. Here’s a guy who’s spiritually healthy. We don’t know whether he was physically healthy or not, whether he was a little bit ill and this was a get well kind of a greeting or not. But the fact that he was spiritually healthy- imagine if this prayer were prayed about us, if someone prayed and it were immediately answered, that we would be physically fit as we are spiritually. I wonder if some of us would be dying, physically, or if we would be like Gaius, strong and vibrant. If our physical health were to match our spiritual walk, would we be strong or would be we anemic?

“For I rejoice greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth.” You see, physical health or financial prosperity is not always an indication of spiritual health and prosperity. That’s very easy to figure out, isn't it? Do you any unbelievers that have good health? Or any unbelievers that have money? Does that mean that they are spiritually prosperous because they have bucks and they’re healthy? That’s ridiculous. And I know some great saints of God, men and women of God, who suffer physically, and who have more faith. You and I can philosophize about it, but they live it. And it’s not always an indication of great spirituality. How many people do you know that are lead to Jesus Christ because of their financial prosperity? I know people who are led away from God by financial prosperity; I don’t know too many who are led to God, just because they get blessed financially.

There was a guy who used to make a hundred dollars a week, and he was a Christian. Always believed that whatever God gives him, is like the Bible says, he’s giving ten percent of it to his local church, giving it to God. So he gave ten dollars a week. God started prospering him financially. Pretty soon he was making a thousand dollars a week. So he’d be giving a hundred dollars a week. Pretty soon he was making ten thousand dollars a week; he gave a thousand a week to the church. And as time went on, he was making so much money; he was making a million dollars a week. Went to the pastor, said, “man, I can’t give this much money away in a tithe.” The pastor said, “Let’s get on our knees right now and pray,” and he said, “Oh, God, I pray that from now on, you’d make this man make a hundred dollars a week.” Because, while he was making a lot less, he was the faithful steward, his heart was right with God. But finances kind of drew him away from the Lord.

I have no greater joy, than to hear that my children walk in truth.” Now, the flip-side of that is also true. There’s no greater tragedy than a person who doesn't continue walking with the Lord. You know, every now and then, someone will come to me and say, “a couple of years ago I responded to an altar call you gave here at Calvary Chapel. I met Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. And my brother came to know the Lord, and my kids came to know the Lord. I’m in a bible study group. I've been witnessing to different people. I’m going out now, to represent the Lord in a different area, like another country.” You know how blessed that makes a person feel? Even as Gaius, who was probably one of John’s converts, was growing consistently, a steady walk, not a meander, not a mountaintop experience and then just dropping down and forgetting the Lord, but a consistent, constant walking in the truth. “I have no greater joy.” Paul, the apostle, in writing to the Thessalonians, said, “For what is our hope, our joy, our rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ that is coming?” “Just the fact that I know you are following him, that in His presence, you've been consistently walking after the Lord- it gives me great joy.” To the Corinthians, Paul said, “I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy. I have espoused to one, even Christ.” “I want you to be so in love with Jesus, that you’ll have no idols before you. I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy. That you have that same love that you had for Jesus always.” “No greater joy than to hear that My children walk in truth.”

And notice again, that John is using that frequent word, “truth, truth, truth,” just like he did in 2 John: “to the elect lady whom I love in the truth, you follow the truth.” “To Gaius, whom I love in the truth.” What was Gaius' secret? He was a lover of the truth. He meditated on the word of God. The scripture was his love, and he walked personally according to verse three, in the truth. And others were testifying. People who were coming in and out of the church said, “You know, that Gaius is such a blessing. He stands up for the truth. He’s not afraid to speak it. He knows the word. He is consistent in his walk. Psalm 1: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of the sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law does he meditate day and night. He will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, its leaf also does not wither; and whatsoever he does prospers.” It’s a consistency about his walk.

Now, Gaius is commended in verse five, “Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well.” What John is commending, is the fact that Gaius was a man of hospitality. Different people, as we said a couple weeks ago, would come into the church. They were itinerant. They would come in and give a message, or be an evangelist, or play their guitars, like Dennis. And Gaius would always welcome them into his own home. He was hospitable and people would testify, “This guy shares his home, his love, his life with us.” And he was a man of a good testimony because of his hospitality. And so he says, “you do faithfully whatever you do for brethren and for strangers.” Now, in the early church, when you would travel around, there were no hotels. You couldn't write a letter and say, “I’m coming to your town. I’ll be at the Holiday Inn across the street. We’re going to plan a convention at the convention center, have a big rally, and many souls will get saved.” Hotels in the early church were fleabag joints. And they were known for prostitution. And so Christians didn’t stay there. They depended upon the hospitality of other Christians in the towns that they ministered, and Gaius is one of the those faithful witnesses, who allowed people to come in. And by the way, hospitality is a requirement for those of us who are Christians- especially Christian leaders. One of the marks of a Christian leader is that he has to be hospitable and allow people to come in his own home. It’s one of the requirements for an elder and for a deacon. And the Bible also tells all of us to be careful that we entertain strangers, even people we’re not acquainted with. “For some have entertained angels without knowing it.” That verse has always intrigued me a little bit, because I’ve met some pretty strange people, and I just wonder, “you know, if they’re an angel, their disguised pretty well, but I’m not going to take a risk on it. I’m going to be nice to them.” I’d hate to stand before God and have that angel say, “this guy smurfed me one time.”

“ because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive[] such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.” Now there’s an another important principle: Christians ought to support other Christians. These people went forth, they didn't take any money from the Gentiles, they didn't beg; the Church took care of its own. They didn’t have to solicit funds outside of the Church. The Church was able to take care of those who were faithfully ministering the Gospel. The missionaries in the early church depended upon God to support them. They never begged for money. In fact, as we read last time we got together when we covered second John, we read a little portion of the Ditichy, where the early church fathers said, “If anybody among you comes and begs for money is a false prophet.” The Lord has blessed us with the ability to have a radios ministry, in different parts of the country and even overseas, and we’re always careful to not beg for money. Do not pull this trip and say, “Now, if you don’t send in your check this month, we’re going to have to go off the air.” I, personally, don’t like that. I think, if you’re good, and God blesses you, and people are getting ministered to and filled and fed, and people are coming to know the Lord, they’re going to want to support it. And if you have to say, “if you don’t send in money, we’re going to go off the air,” you ought to off the air. Pull the plug on the thing. Don’t put in on a life support system. Don’t tax the church by going on the air and using precious radios time to beg for money, as if, “You have to support poor God. He’s broke this month- can’t pay His radios bills.” It gives God a bad image. That’s one of the reasons, when we came to this town, we decided to put these little boxes in the aisle and not take offerings. There’s nothing wrong with offerings. It’s a scriptural principle. And many churches take offerings every service. That’s fine. We take offerings a little bit differently. You know they’re there. You have a responsibility to the Lord in the scripture. We tell you about it. But it’s between you and God. Nobody has to see you doing it. Just depending on God; The Church taking care of its own.

Now verse 8, notice that before we finish up. “We therefore ought to receive such that we may become fellow workers for the truth.” That’s a very important principle concerning gospel work. There are a great number of people- some of you, I know- who, if you had a little bit different situation, you’d love to go out yourself and perhaps be a missionary. But because of the way you are with your family or perhaps your wife or husband doesn't want to go, you really do, or you’re at a time in your life where you’re raising children and God just isn’t allowing it, you’re not able to go. Well you can be a fellow worked in the Truth by contributing to those who are going to these countries. We have people going out all the time to represent the Lord in different countries, to preach the gospel. Jay is going to be going out here in a few months to Africa. Dennis was talking about Africa. Well some of you can’t go to Africa. Jay and his wife can. They've gone before, they want to go again. And although you can’t go, you can go through them. Supporting those who are among you. And you are a fellow worker in the truth. You know, in the Old Testament, David came back from Mount Gilboa. And he was going to the town of Ziklag, where he had a stronghold. While he was going back, he noticed that the Amalekites had burned the city with fire and taken all of the spoil: the wives, the kids, everything. He got a little bit upset, and so he took his men and he went to battle, while some other people remained behind and watched the supplies. And they took the spoil back and they tool spoil from the Amalekites. And certain of these soldiers said, “Hey let’s take the spoil for ourselves. These people sat behind. They didn't do anything. We were out on the front lines doing all the work. Let’s take it all for ourselves.” David said, “No way. Those who watched the supplies will share in the spoils just as much as the people who went out to fight the battle. Those who stayed back and watched the supplies for us. We’re going to cut it right in half.” And so they shared the ministry together.

And so it is, with us, as we support people who are sharing the gospel. It’s an important principle. In the book of Philippians, Paul the Apostle said, “You Philippians shared with me every time I went out to represent the Lord. Not that I desire a material gift. But,” he said, “that fruit might abound to your account.” In other words, some of you who support missionaries, don’t be surprised when you get to heaven, and a little old man from India comes up to you and just, “ I want to thank you. You know, if it wasn't for you, I really wouldn't be here.” And you go, “What are you talking about, I never met you?” “Oh, but you supported a missionary who came and preached the gospel to me, and now I am saved.” And see, you allowed a person to go in your place, and you become a fellow worker for the truth, and that was Gaius.

Now, we get to Diotrephes. “I wrote to the church…,” in other words, I wrote a letter before. Now notice this: “but Diotrephes…” Now if you are looking for a biblical name for your son, don’t pick this one. I guess you call him “Dio” for short. “Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.” Diotrephes was a boss, not a servant. And can you imagine not receiving the Apostle John? John writes you a letter and says, “I’d like to come and visit and share.” He’d been with the Lord, he was one of the original apostles, and Diotrephes wouldn't receive the guy. I’m sure that Diotrephes could learn a lot from John- such a loving man, a wise man. But Diotrephes was an insecure leader. He was insecure, and was someone else was more spiritual than he was and showed him up spiritually, he wanted nothing to do with him. These kind of people put other people down and they think that in putting other people down, they lift themselves up, but they don’t. They just spread cancer. This man wasn't growing. He really hadn't changed, if indeed was a Christian at all. He was lording over the flock. Now Jesus said that we’re not to be like the Gentiles, lording over the flock, but we are to be a servant. “He who would be the greatest, let him be your minister, or let him be your servant.” Diotrephes was not like that at all, so John says, “Fine, when I come, I’m going to expose him publicly. I’m going to tell you what a rat he was. Pratting against us with malicious words.” Now, why is John vindictive against him? Is he going to get him back? No, John was a shepherd and he loved sheep, and he protected sheep. And you need to protect sheep against people like Diotrephes. And the best thing you can do is exposed them publicly. The sooner the better. You think, “Well that’s a little bit hard to name names.” Listen- if there’s poison on my shelf in my garage, I want to put a title that says, “poison” on it in bright red letters. Not just kind of, you know, cover it up and put it in with the rest. I want people to know its poison. Cause I don’t want them to drink of it, cause if they drink of it they’ll be poisoned as well. That’s what John’s doing. “I love that church enough to tell them that Diotrephes is poison. He is poisoning people and if people want to associate with any others, Diotrephes is excommunicating them, putting them out of the church. So when I come, I’m going to set things in order. So, “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but[d] he who does evil has not seen God.” You know it’s bad enough when non-believers provide for us bad role-models, let alone when Christian leaders are bad role models, like Diotrephes. And so, according to John, in this case, they need to be exposed.

I remember one time, earlier on in my Christian walk, and I was a bass player in a Christian band during, I guess the latter end of the Jesus Movement in California. We’d travel around southern California and we’d just love to do evangelism anywhere- any kind of a town, any kind of a church, go out in the park. And we were invited to this little church; I don’t know, out in the middle of “Toulisville” somewhere, out in the middle of nowhere. They invited us to come and share. And so we came, and we set up our group and, uh, I guess it was the youth pastor, one of the guys in the church, um, had us set up and we’d a play a song and he’d walk up and he’d go,“ um, I want you turn your amp down, and I’d like you play with brushes on the drums and I don’t want to sing that song at all, do this one,” and you know, we’d tried to accommodate him. And pretty soon, he was just trying to tell us everything and the drummer just said, “what are you doing? We’re here to represent the Lord?” And the guy was a short little guy, he was kind of trying to throw his weight around, he stood up on a folding chair, and he looked down at us and said, “Listen, this is my church, these are my people. And if you're going to minister at my church, you’re going to do things my way.” He was a part of what was called the Shepherding Monvement. I don’t know if you've heard of that. But during the 70s, there was a Diotrephes kind of a movement called that Shepherding Movement. That is, every Christian needs a personal shepherd. You need accountability, brother. You need personal discipleship. And what they meant by that is that if you want to do anything, you got to ask your shepherd. And you can’t get married unless your little shepherd says, “oh, you can’t marry her, but you can marry her. Even if you don’t love her, you’re supposed to marry her. I will give you God’s will for your life.”

Well can I buy this car?

I don’t know, ask your personal shepherd.

Well can I buy a radio?

Ask your personal shepherd.

Who do I tithe to?

Your personal shepherd.

And this guy was a part of it. He was really caught up in it. He said, “Your playing at my church, you do things my way.” We said, “Fine, thank you but, we’d hate for people to be saved in this church and have to sit under your ministry.” So we went out and we played out in a park a few blocks away. Just had a great time sharing the gospel in a free kind of a way. Telling people, not about “Churchianity”, but about Jesus, who sets people free. And they can have a relationship with Him. “And the LORD is your shepherd…” not this guy over here in this church. The Lord is your shepherd. Hey, and when the Lord wants to be your shepherd, why would you want to settle for anything less? So many people love to have other people Lord over them. “Tell me what to do, please!”

I've told you about a girl who came to me and said, “I want to get married to this guy bit I've been divorced a few times. I want you to tell me if God wants me to marry him or not.” I said, “You’re not going to hang that on me. You go pray and go find out God’s will for your own life. I don’t know if you should marry him. I’ll give you scriptural principles and how to date and how to find out God’s will, but I’m not your shepherd. The Lord is. I’m an under-shepherd. I feed the flock, I tend the flock. I’ll give you counsel, I’ll pray for you, I’ll try to understand, but I’m not going to tell you every direction of your life. You need to grow up and let the Lord be your shepherd.” Diotrephes wasn't willing to do that. He was too insecure. He wanted to hold on to everyone and put people out of the church when they didn't agree with him.

And so he says, “do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.” And as a perfect example of what is good, he uses Demetrius. “Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true.” Now here is Demetrius, a praise-worthy Christian. John is saying, “If you want a role model, don’t use Diotrephes. If you want a role model, use Demetrius, because he has a good testimony among everybody. He is probably one of the people that Diotrephes refused to accept as one of the itinerant ministers coming through town. A praise-worthy Christian. You know, we need role-models. After I read in, I think Newsweek, that, for young people today, young males, the two role-models that they look up to are Clint Eastwood and Eddie Murphy. I thought, “Goodness, we’re in deep trouble.” We need role-models. People who will stand up for the truth and love God and say, like Paul, “Follow mee as I follow the Lord.” Not that we have this personal shepherd thing, or we look toward another person as some kind of an idol or having something special. But, willing to follow his example because that person follows the Lord, not that that person’s perfect. But allowing our lives to be so transparent that we can say, “Follow me as I follow the Lord.” So Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. “And we also bear witness, or we’ll put our stamp of approval on him too, and you know that our testimony is true.”

I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink; 14 but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face. Peace to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.” And so, that’s the third epistle of John. And we see the differences between different people in the church, don’t we? Some who grow, some who are hospitable, and those who don’t, who are closed, who are haughty and proud, like Diotrephes. “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Never be content with a plateau. Never sit down and go, “man, I've grown as much as I need to grow. I read the Bible through, once. That’s all I need to.” We need, in a sense, a healthy dissatisfaction that would cause us to pursue after the Lord with all of our hearts. David, who walked with the Lord, said, “As the deer pants for the streams of water, so pants my soul over you, my God.” And again Paul, “Not that I have already attained, but I press toward the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus.” I’m not perfect. I’m still needing to grow.
 
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