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Imitate What is Good to Spread the Truth

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Text:  3 John

Title:  Imitate What Is Good

Textual Theme, Goal, Need:

Theme:  Christians ought to imitate what is good

Goal:  to encourage Gaius to imitate what is good.

Need:  Gaius is has people around him like Diotrephes who loves power but speaks falsely against John and is not hospitable.

Sermon Theme, Goal, Need:

Theme:  Christians ought to imitate what is good.

Goal: to encourage Christians to imitate what is good.

Need:  Christians often have influences around them of things that are not good.  Gossip, pride.  Getting ahead.

Textual Outline:

  1. Introduction
    1. From the Elder
    2. To Gaius
    3. Wish of good Health
    4. Joy of walking in the Truth
  2. Body
    1. Praise for Hospitality
    2. Show hospitality to work together for the truth.
    3. Do not imitate what is evil but what is good.

                                                               i.      Diotrephes

1.      Full of himself

2.      Gossips maliciously

3.      Is inhospitable- vs. the truth

                                                             ii.      Demetrius

1.      Is well spoken of.

  1. Conclusion
    1. Hope to visit
    2. Peace
    3. Greetings between friends

Textual Notes:

Sermon Outline:

  1. Soap Opera effect
    1. On TV- flippant and silly
    2. In 3 John, serious.  Stands in the way of the truth.
  2. Names
    1. The Elder of Truth- John
    2. The Spreader of Truth- Gaius
    3. The Hinderer of Truth-Diotrephes
    4. The Model of Truth- Demetrius
  3. Actions:  Imitate what is good!

Sermon in Oral Style:

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

          It’s confession time.  I want to see a show of hands this evening.  Who has watched a soap opera at some point this week?  Be honest.  I figured there would be at least a few people here who have seen a soap opera.

          Soaps have this amazing draw to them, don’t they?  Lots of shows have a draw like that also.  You have the characters that you start to get to know.  They get into situations that you just have to try and find out what happens next.  They have the power to captivate.

          You know its got amazing drawing power when you hear of ladies in their 80’s refusing visitors at 1 o’clock because the Young and the Restless is coming on.

          The quirk about Soaps that I always found annoying was the way they ramble through a whole list of people’s names like you are supposed to know exactly who they are talking about.  And they are always some exotic names also.  “Mimi told Amanda that Xavier and Fabio stole Marco’s car with the million dollars inside.  Then they decided to go kill Mrs. Beatrice and take over her shares in the company.  But Mimi and Shelishia were both in love with Xavier.  And now he’s going to prison and we don’t know who the Father is. 

          I might make a pretty good soap opera writer, don’t you think?

          Soaps rattle off this list of names of people all involved in some sort of dispute or love triangle.  The reason I mention this is because 3 John almost sounds like a mini-Biblical soap opera.  In 2 John, the only name that is mentioned is Jesus Christ.  In 3 John we have 4 different names mentioned and Jesus isn’t even mentioned once.  The difference between 3 John and a soap opera, of course, is that 3 John’s drama is serious.  The conflict between the characters is one that will stand in the way of the Truth being taught throughout the world.  Soaps leave nothing at stake.  The situations surrounding our passage can mean the difference between eternal life and death.

          Just so you get familiar with the players in our passage, we have four of them.  I gave a title to each one of them as well.  First we have John- the Elder of Truth.  Then we have Gaius- the Helper of Truth.  Next we have Diotrephes, the Hinderer of Truth.  And finally we have Demetrius, the Model of Truth.

          So let’s let our passage be our guide.  Verse 1 says, 1The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.”  Before we look at these people, we have to start with the word at the end of that verse.  The word Truth.  This is a very important word in this tiny little book.  The word truth happens 109 times in the New Testament.  3 John uses the word 6 times in this little letter.  For such a tiny little book, that is a lot.  If you look for the word Truth in Matthew, Mark and Luke, you will only find it 7 times.  That’s seven times in 68 chapters compared to six times in one chapter.  What does this tell us?  This letter is about truth!

          The first verse of this letter mentions the first two people invovled in this serious drama about truth.  The person who writes the letter tells us who he is.  It says, “elder.”  That doesn’t give us a whole lot to go on, but almost from the very beginning Christians have said this was written by John the disciple of Jesus.  Part of the reason for this goes back to that little word Truth.  In Matthew, Mark and Luke combined, the word shows up 7 times.  In the gospel of John, the word Truth is used almost 30 times.  And it shows up another 8 times in 1 and 2 John.  The disciple John was all about the Truth.  So, the first person invovled in this drama about truth is John, the Elder of Truth.

          Gaius is the next person who comes up in our passage.  Now, we can’t really tell a whole lot about who Gaius really was as a person, but we do know that there was an extremely close relationship between Gaius and John. 

John calls him, a dear friend many times.

John wishes him good health in verse 2.  But also verses 13-14 really put some flesh and bones on John and Gaius’ relationship.  John really wants to visit him again.  It says, “13I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. 14I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.”

And also, we start getting into the meat of what the book is all about in verses 3-4 when John writes, 3It 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. 4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

John and Gaius are partners in spreading the truth of Jesus Christ.  From the way John calls Gaius his child, its probably true that Gaius was his disciple at one point.  Gaius was probably mentored in his faith and taught the steps of walking the path of Christ by John himself.

As part of that mentoring and growing, John has given Gaius a task in helping the truth be spread.  Personally, we too have tasks of spreading the truth.  Maybe you need to proclaim the truth about Jesus Christ.  We can do that today.  In a world where many don’t know Christ we can tell others the truth:  Jesus died for your sins.  In a world where some are very anti-Jesus, we can stand up for the truth.  We can defend the love of Jesus, and the teachings of Jesus, and we can defend the TRUTH of the Resurrection and Reign of Jesus.  We all can be doing these tasks of spreading the truth.

But the task of Gaius, the helper of truth was quite different.  Verse 5-8 allude to the task.  5Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. 6They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.

The way Gaius Helps the truth is he is hospitable to the people that John has been sending.  We don’t know if these people are missionaries, or people who are supposed to be setting Gaius’ church on the right path again.  But Gaius’ task in spreading the thruth involved simply being hospitable.  Many in this congregation have the gift of hospitality.  How are you using your gift to promote truth in the world?

So we hav John the Elder of Truth, Gaius, the Helper of Truth.  The next character is Diotrephes, the Hinderer of Truth.  Every good soap opera needs someone to be the vilian.  The person who is just plain evil, whose plans you are cheering against.  In this struggle for the Truth of Jesus Christ, Diotrephes is the vilian, the bad guy, the one that we hope doesn’t go riding off into the sunset in the end. 

This Diotrephes is a guy that we really dislike.  Listen to the things that John says against him.  Verse 9.  9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, 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.

Diotrephes is not the kind of guy you would want to have in your congregation.  He is the kind of person that we should all try to avoid being.  John says he loves to be first.  He likes to be a dictator in the congregation.  Some of us may have that tendency, whether it is in church or with a group of friends, or where ever.  We should not love to be.  First, we shouldn’t presume that we are the ones who will do the best job at leadership.  If we are called to leadership for the sake of Christ, that is a good thing.  But if we try for leadership positions for the sake of being powerful, that has to stop.  That is being like the vilian of 3 John.  Loving to be first.  That stands in the way of the truth.

The second issue John has with Diotrephes is he is a gossiper.  One of the most damaging things that could happen to a church leader is the people in the congregation begin gossiping maliciously about them. It hinders the truth when any one is a malicious gossiper in a congregation.  It breaks down the trust between Christians.  It hinders the spreading of the truth when lies and malicious gossip are being spread.  It is one more way Diotrephes is the hinderer of truth.

John is going to travel to the church and give a reprimand for a third reason, also.  Diotrephes has hindered the truth of Christ by being unhospitable.  These visitors that Gaius has welcomed in so warmly, Diotrephes doesn’t welcome them.  He turns them away.  He stops the people who are trying to encourage the church to do right.  Being unhospitable stands in the way of spreading the truth.

Diotrephes is the hinderer of the truth.  John the elder of the truth wants Gaius, the helper of truth to never be like Diotrephes.  Instead, John tells Gaius about someone that he should repsect admire and follow.  His name is Demetrius.  Demetrius is the model of truth.

John’s last instructions to Gaius in this book comes in verse 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.
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.

          Imitate what is good.  John has shown that Diotrephes is not good.  He hinders the truth.  He is a dictator in the church.   He is a gossip.  Don’t imitate Diotrephes.  Imitate what is good. 

          And to remind them what is good, John brings up Demetrius.  Obviously, they know this Demetrius already.  He might have been a missionary, or the letter carrier for John.  Whoever he was, Gaius knew him.

          The attribute that makes Demetrius such a good model of the truth is that he lives a good life.  Everyone speaks good about him.  John has nothing but praise for him.  And, he even says, the truth itself speaks highly of Demetrius.

          That is some pretty high praise.  The phrase, the even the truth itself speaks will of Demetrius, is tough to really get a grasp on.  But I think the sense of it is pretty clear.  Demetrius lives such an upright life that even truth itself would tell you how good a life he leads. 

          So we could say Demetrius is our example.  But, first of all, we don’t know the specifics of his life that we could follow.  And second of all, we have a better model to follow than Demetrius.  We have Christ.  We know how Christ lived.  We know how Jesus sacrificed himself for others.  We know that Christ did not get inconvenienced at helping people.  We know that Jesus did everything so that the truth of the grace of God would be spread through out the world.

          This soap opera of the New Testament is a good reminder for all of us that we ought to be hospitable to everyone.  We ought to avoid trying to be the leader all the time, or being a gossiper.  We ought to try to imitate what is good.  We should imitate Jesus Christ.  By being imitators of the Good of Jesus Christ, we will be helping the truth of Christ to be spread in our families, in our neighborhoods, and throughout the world.

This is God’s will from his Word.  And all God’s people say:  AMEN.

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