Tag Archives: 3rd john

How to live a non-hypocritical life – 3rd John, Part 5

20 Sep

Remember the story I told about the difficult boss who was terrible to work for, but he was a kind and caring gentleman among his church family?  One way in one setting, totally different in another.  Now that we have studied 3rd John, and we have learned about walking in truth, we can conclude with some practical applications.

To summarize what we learned, Christians walk in truth, and that means a consistency of life no matter what setting we’re in.  To live a double life is to live a lie.  But to walk in truth is to live with consistency.

So in this letter to Gaius John has taught us what it means to walk in truth. 

He said very clearly what walking in truth is not.  For that we just need to look at Diotrophes.  Christians should not love to be first, should not be gossiping.  We should not be divisive, disagreeable, grumpy.  Do you in any way resemble Diotrophes?  At work, at school, at home, at church? 

If so, let’s remember what walking in the truth is.  For that we can look at Gaius.  We should be welcoming of fellow Christians, and we should be striving for unity in the church.  In other words, we are striving to have a way or a pattern of life that is modeled after Jesus.  Jesus is our teacher and we invest time and energy learning from Jesus how to live. 

That’s how we walk in the truth.

If you are living an inconsistent life, I would encourage you to make a choice to begin walking in truth, and that starts with devoting your life to Jesus. 

If you were the harsh boss reading 3rd John about walking in truth, I hope your response would start with repenting.  Admitting in front of your employees that you have been wrong.  Asking their forgiveness.  Listening to their hurts.  Seeking accountability to be different.  If you were Diotrophes, it would mean telling your church family that you are sorry for gossiping, for being grumpy, for being divisive.   

One of the best pictures of this is a man named Zacchaeus in the Bible. He was a tax collector who got wealthy by cheating people, and when he met Jesus his life was changed.  To start walking in the truth he began to make amends, giving money back.  He wanted to walk in the truth.  Christians, we are to be known for walking in the truth. How are you walking?

What’s more important: belief or action? – 3rd John, Part 4

19 Sep
Photo by Alex Radelich on Unsplash

As we continue studying the ancient letter of 3rd John, we read at the end of verse 6 that John writes his friend Gaius encouraging him to send some fellow Christians on their way in a manner worthy of God.  In other words, he is saying to Gaius, “keep doing what you’re doing in supporting these guys.”  But who were they?

In verses 7-8 John says that they were people who went out for the sake of the Name, receiving no help from the pagans, and therefore Christians ought to be hospitable to them, showing that they are unified in the mission of God’s kingdom.

The people John is talking about were missionaries, essentially.  Traveling preachers who had gone on mission trips in the Name of Jesus, for the mission of God’s Kingdom.  Gaius had taken some of them in, supporting them, caring for them, probably providing food and shelter, while the missionaries proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom.  John describes what Gaius’ support of these missionaries as an example of “walking in the truth.”  So Gaius clearly has a gift of hospitality, and he used it to advance the mission of Jesus.  That is Gaius demonstrating how to walk in truth.

Then in verse 9, John introduces a problem.   He says that he wrote to the church, presumably to ask for them to also help the traveling missionaries, but there was a guy in the church named Diotrophes who blocked John’s attempt.  When you think about how John has already described Gaius as walking in the truth, now look at verses 9-10 and see how differently he describes Diotrophes.  Let’s just list out the words and phrases John uses:

Diotrophes loves to be first.  He will have nothing to do with John.  He is gossiping maliciously.  He refuses to welcome the brothers.  He even stops those who try to help, and he puts them out of the church.  

This is the exact opposite of walking in the truth!  Where Gaius was seeking to live like Jesus lived, Diotrophes is not.  Diotrophes is living an inconsistent life, in the church, but opposing the mission of the church.  Gaius, however, is walking in truth, and Diotrophes, even though he is part of a church, is walking in evil.

And that is why John says in verse 11, “Do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.”  In other words, walk in truth, imitate the way of Jesus, follow Jesus, let him be your example.  Do not imitate Diotrophes.  Keep Jesus as your focus. 

John’s conclusion is that those people who do what is good are from God, and those who do what is evil have not seen God.  In other words, Diotrophes is not a true Christian, and he shows that clearly by his behavior.  We have seen this time and time again in these short letters.  True Christianity is shown by how you live.  By what comes out of your mouth, by how you spend your money, by how you behave.  You show what is truly inside you by the choices you make.  What was inside Diotrophes was not God.  But the truth, Jesus, was truly within Gaius, as that was flowing out.  Gaius walked in truth.  Diotrophes walked in evil.

In verse 12 John then introduces us to another person, Demetrius, and John says that Demetrius is a great guy.  John is vouching for him.  Some scholars believe that Demetrius was one of the traveling missionaries that Diotrophes put out of the church, and John is saying to Gaius, “Please care for Demetrius like you did for the others.” 

So this letter is basically a reference letter.  John is writing Gaius, with a reference for Demetrius.  It’s like an interview process when candidates list references, and you call them up, asking basically, “Tell me honestly about this girl.  Is she a good worker?  Can I trust her?”  John is saying to Gaius, “You can trust Demetrius.” 

It could be that Diotrophes was really calling Demetrius into question, and John is saying, “Don’t believe Diotrophes.  He is not walking in the truth.  Just look at how he lives.  Don’t trust the word of a guy who shows by his actions that he clearly doesn’t know God.” In other words, John is saying to Gaius, and to all of us: your personal life matters.  Just being part of a church, and saying that you believe in Jesus is not what it means to be a Christian.  What matters is how you live.  Because Jesus is truth, that means we strive to live like Jesus lived.  That, of course, is a truthful life.  A truthful life is a consistent life. How you act shows what you truly believe.

How to walk in truth (and find out if you aren’t) – 3rd John, Part 3

18 Sep
Photo by Drew Patrick Miller on Unsplash

If you created an anonymous online survey asking your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors to describe your pattern of life, what would they say? What tendencies do you have? What comes to mind when they think about you? What impressions do the choices of your life make on the people around you? How do you come across?

In this series of posts, we’re studying an ancient letter a guy named John wrote to his friend Gaius, and in that letter John tells Gaius how he comes across. If you want, read the letter, called 3rd John in your Bible or Bible app, and catch up with these posts with Part 1 and Part 2. In Part 2 we learned that John prayed for Gaius, that it would be going well with his soul. As we continue in verses 3-4, John further describes what it means for things to be going well with Gaius’ body and soul when he expresses the great joy he had when he heard that Gaius was faithful to the truth and walking in the truth. So this “walking in the truth,” whatever it is, is really important to John!

In our previous series when we studied the letter called 2nd John, he also mentioned “walking in the truth” 2nd John verse 4.  In fact, while I think it is coincidental, compare the verse fours in both 2nd and 3rd John, and notice how similar they are!  The significance to this, I sense, is that “walking in the truth” was on John’s mind and clearly important to him, so let’s take time to try to understand it.

John calls it a “walk,” or “walking.”  Walking most obviously gives us the image of a person putting one foot in front of the other.  But John is not talking about the physical act moving yourself by the motion of walking.  John is using walking in a figurative way. 

Walking here is defined as “to live or behave in a customary manner, with possible focus upon continuity of action”[1]  You see what that means?  John is talking about a way of life.  In 2nd John, when we focused on “walking in love,” we learned that John wanted the people to have a way of life based on love.  Here in 3rd John, he is talking about a way of life based on truth.  Your walk is your way of life that refers to your behavior, your choices, your actions, and it is not a one-time event but the ongoing pattern of your life. It is habitual.  It is what characterizes you because you do it over and over and over again.  John says that is your walk.  And he says, it should be a walk in the truth. 

So, then, what is the truth?  This is the Greek word alethia which is used as a female name in English, and it means “truth.”  John is not talking about a concept or idea of truth, so much as he is talking about the fact that Jesus is the embodiment of truth.  I know that he doesn’t spell that out in verses 1-4, so how do we know this?  Because of what John has written in other places, the most famous of which is John 14:6, in John’s account of Jesus’ life, when Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  This was and still is a fairly surprising way to think of truth.  Truth is a person.  Jesus is truth.  Last week we read John saying that there is an amazing reality that this truth lives in us and is with us forever.  Now this week we are focusing on what it means to walk in that truth.  It means that our pattern of life should be based on Jesus’ pattern of life, in agreement with or consistent with Jesus’ way of life. 

Our guide, our example, for the way to live life, is Jesus, and how he lived.  He is the truth, and we walk in his way.   Walking truth is not just telling the truth.   It surely includes telling the truth, but it is much more than that.  Walking in the truth occurs when we strive to apply the ways and habits of Jesus to our lives. 

As we continue studying the letter, let’s be alert to learn if John has anything further to say about walking in truth.  In verse 5, for example, he encourages Gaius because Gaius has been faithful in what he has done for the brothers, even those who were strangers to him.  This is a somewhat vague sentence, so perhaps if we keep reading John will explain it for us.  In verse 6 these brothers have told the church about Gaius’ love.  So clearly there are Christian people who Gaius helped in some way, and those Christian people shared the news about Gaius’ generosity to John’s church. Sounds like John is describing that Gaius was walking in the truth!

Can it be said of you that you are walking in the truth? What does the pattern of your life tell about you? Do you want to know? How would the people around you describe your walk? Ask them. You might need to make it anonymous, so you get the truth.

[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 504.

3 ways to pray for your friends – 3rd John, Part 2

17 Sep
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

How should you pray for your friends?

As we continuing studying the letter called 3rd John, after greeting his friend Gaius, instead of conveying a blessing from God, as so often happens in the biblical letters, John next describes how he prays for his friend.  It’s a great prayer, too, one that you can use a model for your prayers for your loved ones.  John says he prays for Gaius to enjoy good health, that all may go well with him, even as his soul is getting along well. 

That is an interesting prayer.  The good health part?  I get it.  Very normal.  We pray for good health frequently.  In fact, my guess is if you tallied up all the prayer requests mentioned in churches in each week the majority would be for health concerns.  It’s not wrong to pray for good health.  John does it right here.  But he has some other concerns too.  That means we should avoid getting fixated on praying for good health.  When we pray for ourselves and others, we should think holistically, meaning, thinking of the whole person, as John does.  John prays for health, but what else does he pray for?

The next prayer request is “that all may go well with you.”  I get that one too.  It’s a great thing to pray for your loved ones.  Whether it is their job, family, finances, relationships, you name it, pray that all will go well with them.  Of course in this life, we know that all will not always go well, right?

That’s where John’s third and final prayer request for Gaius is so interesting: “Even as your soul is getting along well.”  He prays for Gaius’ soul!  We should be praying for our loved ones’ souls.  Do you pray for that?

What is this soul, John is talking about?  Is he just praying that Gaius would accept Jesus as his savior so his soul would be saved?  In other words, is John thinking about eternal destiny? About life after death? Notice that John doesn’t say anything like that, does he?  He simply says he wants Gaius’ soul to be getting along well.  What does John mean by this? 

We sometimes think of our soul as the immaterial part of us.  Similar to heart, soul, spirit, mind.  But these terms can be confusing.  Are they real?  Do they refer to different parts of us? 

Christian philosopher JP Moreland, in his book Finding Quiet, explains the soul like this: think of a cup of water. The water represents an inanimate human body, like a corpse, with no life in it.  Then think of a cup of salt. The salt represents our soul.  When the salt is dissolved in the water, it now represents a body that is alive, with a soul.  Our soul, Moreland says, is completely intermingled with our body.  When we are alive, a human is a body with a soul.  It is who we truly are. This is why our evangelical forefathers had a question that they would ask on a regular basis when they got together: “How goes it with your soul?”  It is a deeper way to ask “How are you doing?”  John is approaching prayer holistically.  He doesn’t want his friends to be doing well only in their health, which is a body concern.  He wants all elements of who they are to be going well.  His is a concern for their spiritual, emotional and bodily health.  John is showing us, then, great way for us to think about how we are praying for the people in our lives.

This also relates to John’s idea of a walk, which we’ll look at more in the next post in this series.

Can we say “I love you” non-romantically? 3rd John, Part 1

16 Sep
Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

I recently heard the true story of a boss who was very controlling, difficult and demanding.  As a result was a very stressful person to work for.  His employees always felt like they were on thin ice around him.  One day one of the boss’ employees was meeting new people at a dinner party, and as they talked they asked each other the normal questions people ask when they’re meeting each other for the first time: “Where are you from?” and “Do you have family?” and “What do you do for a living?”  As they answered these questions, they realized they had a common connection in the guy who was the boss.  Here’s the thing, though.  The other people at the dinner party didn’t know the guy as a boss. They went to church with him, and they talked about him glowingly, that he was a great caring guy.  As you can imagine, the employee was shocked to hear his boss went to church.  And he could not conceive of his boss as being a caring guy.

Have you known anyone like that?  Some people would call that a hypocrite.  Or inconsistent.  Would people say that of you and me? I ask this because we’re going to be studying a letter in this week’s series of posts that talks about that kind of life.

This summer we’ve been reading other people’s mail.  Ancient letters.  We read a couple letters that a guy named Paul wrote.  One to a friend named Titus, and another to a friend named Philemon.  Then last week we met another letter writer, a guy named John.  He wrote three letters that are in the Bible.  Last week we studied his letter commonly called 2nd John, and today we’ll see that his next letter, 3rd John, has many similarities with 2nd John.  The writer of these letters, John, was one of the disciples of Jesus. John is sometimes called the Dr. Seuss of the New Testament because in all his writings he uses a few words and he repeats concepts over and over again. 

For example, John loves to talk about walking.  In 2nd John he talked about walking in truth and walking in love, so you might remember that I said last week were we were going to focus on walking in love, which is the feature of 2nd John, and this week we’re going to focus on walking in truth, which is the feature of 3rd John.

So go ahead and read 3rd John before we continue, and see if you can understand what John means by “walking in truth” and what it might have to do with the mean boss who was a nice guy at church. After you’ve read the letter, continue below.

Verse 1 starts just like 2nd John did with John, the writer, identifying himself as “the elder.”  We believe at the time John wrote this, he was probably the only one of Jesus’ original 12 disciples still alive, very much in old age, having served many years in ministry.  It could be that by this point, as the only one of the 12 remaining, he held a position of great respect among the churches, so he was “the elder”.

Next John tells us he is writing to someone named Gaius.  Last week he wrote to “the chosen lady” which we think was a metaphor for a local congregation.  3rd John seems to be a letter specifically to one person,  Gaius.  Why would John write a letter specifically to him?  Let’s try to uncover the reason.

To start, take note of how he refers to Gaius, as a “dear friend,” and one whom John loves in the truth.  That means John considers his relationship with Gaius to be close; he is important to John.  When John says that he loves Gaius in the truth, that should stick out to you.  Why?  Because we don’t talk like that!  Have you ever said to anyone, “I love you in the truth”?  I highly doubt it. 

We might say, “I love you a lot” or “I love you so much.”  But “I love you in the truth?” Uh… No.  What does that even mean?  Well, you might actually have heard people say a phrase very similar to what I think this means.  Have you ever heard Christian people say, “I love you in the Lord”?  Or “I love you as a brother or sister in Christ”?  We don’t use those phrases a whole lot either, but sometimes in a church family, we talk like that because we want to specify the kind of love that we’re communicating.  We don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea!

In our culture, it has become somewhat more normal, I think, for people to say “I love you.” Just a plain old “I love you,” without meaning it romantically.  Sometimes they say it humorously like, “I love you, man!”  But more and more, I’m hearing people say “I love you,” to their friends, non-romantically, and I think that’s a good thing, meaning that perhaps we’re becoming freer to express sentiments of love that way.  But there are still times when we want to express loving-kindness and we don’t want it to be confused with a romantic expression of love, so we add a few words on the end.  In a church family we might say, “I love you in the Lord,” or “I love you as a brother or sister in Christ.”  I think that is what John is doing when he says to Gauis, “I love you in the truth.”  When he says, “he loves him in the truth,” John is describing the deep familial bond that he has with Gaius as a fellow follower of Jesus.  For John, “the way of Jesus” is the one true way of life, and when he says, “I love you in the truth,” John is simply saying to Gaius that they are a part of the Christian family, and John really cares for him.   

So we can, and should, say “I love you” non-romantically to those we care about. We might need to add a word or two to clear up what kind of love we’re expressing. But maybe not.

What does this have to do with the difficult boss? Nothing just yet. But John is getting there. For now, all we have covered is his greeting to his friend. Check back in to Part 2 of this series to see where John goes next.