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John’s purpose in this letter is to address the behavior of a man in a local congregation. He is writing to a dear friend of his, Gaius. We know that John had a deep affection for Gaius because 3 times in this letter of only 15 verses he addresses him as someone he loves.
John compares and contrasts the behavior of Gaius and the behavior of another leader in the local church Diotrephes in order to point out what kind of heart God is looking for, and what kind of heart God can use in the context of church looks like. For John is was essential to call out this kind of behavior because the way that Diotrephes was conducting himself was damaging the church and causing harm and division in the body. His conduct impacted the life of the whole- this is true of leaders in the church.
Today, after church, we are going to have a gathering of all our leaders, and I hope all of us that are attended that meeting remember this- as leaders we are not only responsible for ourselves and our spiritual heath, we are also responsible for how we influence and lead this congregation. One of the great lies of modern Christian thought is that it is all about you- that you only have to answer for you and not for anyone else. While to a point that is true, that is not the case for church leaders. I am going to be held responsible for every word I preach from this pulpit- whether I like it or not. My leadership has the power to influence and how I use that will be evaluated by Jesus. In the same way- if Amy leads kids astray with her Kids Night program she will be held responsible; if our Deacons do not take their calling of caring for widows and orphans seriously, they will be judged for it. When we take a leadership role in the church of Christ we are also taking the accountability that comes along with it.
But this letter from John is not just for leaders, it is for everyone in the church. It invites us to consider how our conduct proves or disproves our convictions.
To better understand this, let’s do a little profile of 2 of the three people John mentions by name in this letter- Gaius and Diotrephes.
Diotrephes is the subject of John’s disapproval. He was obviously a man of power and influence in the church. John calls him out for some pretty disturbing behavior. He tells us that he puts himself first and does not listen to anyone else, not even those in authority. And his conduct is cause a division in the church.
Many of us have experienced a situation like this in our lives, and some of us have seen it in church- a person who is convinced that the entire world, and especially the entire church- revolves around them. They think that they should call the shots in all situations, they want their way in everything. They are the resident experts in all things, and they have no problem letting everyone know how they feel.
Diotrephes had a major flaw in his approach to church service- he put himself first in everything. Friends, we must remember that at the core of the Christian faith is self denial. There is a continuous stream of dying to self that runs through the message of Jesus. Oftentimes this dying is to sin and our own selfish desires, but sometimes the greatest form of self denial is dying to another person.
We are a body of believers and as a church we hold lots of opinions, preferences, thoughts, and beliefs in tension; and that takes a lot of grace, a lot of listening, and a lot of intentionality. And when we all allow others space to be fed, blessed, and serve in ways do not necessarily tickle our fancy we start to resemble the Kingdom of God more and more.
For example, I have always been humbled at how our church does music. We have all kinds of music in this place; from the praise team to hymns, country gospel and bluegrass, and everything in between, and all of it is welcomed in this place. I know that the Praise Team is not everyone’s style. The drums and bass guitar is a little much for you. But I have never had anyone say- let’s get rid of that! Why? Because even if you don’t like it I bet you see how some in our church are blessed by it, and that is enough for them. Same things with hymns; I know that some of your would rather hear the drums and guitars, but you also see how it blesses someone else and that is good enough for you. This is what Diotrephes was missing- it was about more than him!
And it didn’t stop there, either. Diotrephes then spent his time and energy slandering John and those serving with them- the Bible says he was “talking wicked nonsense” about them to try and erode other people’s opinions of John. Many of us have seen this, heard it, and sadly some of us have done it before. Someone has been in disagreement with a church or a church leader and run them down, destroying their reputation and their name in the community because of their hurt. We need to be careful, friends. I am usually very cautious when people start telling me how mean, nasty, and hypocritical another faith leader is, because I have been in that seat. I have had people say mean, hurtful, and flat our untrue things about me because of church, and it hurts. We need to make sure we are not just not being Diotrephes, but we are also not giving the Diotrephes in our lives an audience. We need to make sure that if another Christian is running someones name through the mud, we don’t get in the pit with them and help.
Why? Because it got even worse for him, Diotrephes got to the place where not only did he oppose John, he wanted to kick anyone out of the church that did support John in his ministry. This is some serious hurt, friends, and it all started with a root of pride in Diotrephes that made him try to obliterate anyone who dared oppose him.
It is a living example of Proverbs 11:2 which says “ When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”
We see the disgrace on display, what a sad witness for Christ, and it still happens in churches all over the world to this day.
So, how do we avoid such pitfall? We look to the example of Gaius.
Gaius is commended by John for his hospitality and his support of the ministry of Christ. John says that not only did Gaius welcome travelers for the cause of Christ in his home, but that he sent them on their way in a manner worthy of God.
It can be said that not only was Gaius faithful to God, he was faithful to God’s people, and faithful to God’s work- and all three of these are part of our commitment to Christ.
His faithfulness to God is noted in v3- John has heard that Gaius is walking in the truth. He has heard the teaching about Jesus Christ- seemingly from John-and he continues to walk in that truth and remain faithful to Jesus and his teaching. But it did not stop there.
Gaius was also faithful to the people of God. He was kind and generous; he practiced hospitality and grace and his reputation was a pleasure to John. Just as important as Gaius’ belief was Gaius’ actions and how he treated people. Some of you have heard me say before that it is possible to be theologically right and relationally sinful- and I believe that in my core. Many a Christian sits in a pew on Sunday mornings and believes all the right things about God but treats their neighbors like garbage and that should never be, friends.
Some people say they love their neighbors but they do not act like it. A little girl stayed for dinner at the home of her friend. The vegetable was buttered broccoli, and the mother asked if she liked it. The child replied very politely, "Oh, yes, I love it." But when the bowl of broccoli was passed, she declined to take any. The hostess said, "I thought you said you loved broccoli." The girl replied sweetly, "Oh, yes, ma’am, I do, but not enough to eat it!"
At some point its not just if I say I love my neighbor, but if my actions support that conviction.
Finally, Gaius was faithful to the ministry of Jesus. John is pleased to hear that Gaius has been supportive of those who are fellow workers for the truth.
Guys, there are all kinds of ministries- literally thousands of ministries in the world. There is so much going on in the world with the ministry of Jesus. There are ministries for men, for women, for kids, for orphans, widows, and so much more. And there is no possible way that any one of us can be involved with all of them- as much as some of us want to.
But, what we can do is support the ministries they are doing. We can be generous in our giving; we can be present in our volunteerism; we can be hospitable in our greetings- we can serve them as they serve others.
William Carey, who was a missionary to India, and known to many as the father of modern missions, once said “I will go into the mines for the Gospel if you all hold the rope.”
Gaius held the rope for others. Knowing the limits of what he could do he stepped up to support those who could do what he was unable to do; and we are invited to do the same. There are those who are called to do ministries we cannot do, but that does not relinquish us from helping them or being let go of our responsibility to be involved in ministry.
Today’s kickoff of the baby bottle campaign is a great example. Most of us in this room are not able to work at AVA Care. It takes a medical or counseling degree most of us do not have. But, we can give money, we can donate to help keep the services of AVA Care free to women in this area. We can help save a baby by impacting the finances of going to AVA Care. When we give today, we are holding the rope.
I went through my notes from last year and found all of the ministries that I am aware of we supported last year. Either from our church budget, our volunteerism, or donations of goods. We as a church held the rope for:
Grace to the Nations and Doug and Cassia
Pastor Geordany’s Haitian Orphanage
Oper. Christmas Child
The Ministries of the Shen. District
Camp Brethren Woods
B'water Retirement Home
Brethren Disaster Ministries
Weekday Religious Education
Pleasant View Home
Salvation Army
Habitat for Humanity
Camp Still Meadows
Open Doors Homeless Ministry
MCU Mobile Care Clinic
Our Deacons helped no less than 12 local Families
Those are things outside of this church! That is not including the ministries like Kidz Night, and Youth Group that touch the lives of people in this church every week!
Holding the rope for others and expanding the Kingdom of God.
In Colossians 3 Paul talks about putting on our new self in Christ. And in v14-15 he says And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
I notice 2 things in these verses- first love will bind everything together in perfect harmony. When we allow the love of Jesus to influence our relationships with other ministries things change. The Bible says that we will be bound together.
When you were a kid, did you ever play red rover? Imagine us holding hands with AVA Care today and when Satan wants to break through a young ladies life we hold on so he cannot break through.
The second thing that I notice is that it says to let the peace of Christ rule because we are called into one body. Now, we have said many times before that peace is not just the absence of war or conflict, but God’s best. So, let God’s best be your target in all things for we are all one body....
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