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Obedience and encouragement / a look at 3 John

Paul says in Philippians 2:8 (Jesus) humbled himself by becoming obedient

3. THE HEART OF A SERVANT IS OBEDIENT – A servant obeys God, not out of convenience, but out of conviction. Can you imagine if you had obeyed your parents our of convenience? “What’s that Dad? You want me to clean my room right now? Yea… that doesn’t really work for me, I was going to watch TV all day and then goof off with my friends.” Would you have told your Dad that? Not if you wanted to live to see tomorrow, right?

So why do we do that with God? There are over 600 commandments in the Bible. Even Jesus gave us commandments and yet… we pick and choose how we want to follow don’t we? We follow and serve out of convenience rather than conviction.

1 Corinthians 4:2 says it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

You know who the steward is? It’s the servant, the one in charge of the masters house. And see that’s the beauty of being free. The difference between a slave and a servant is, a slave obeys because they have to – but a servant obeys because they want to – they love their master and they find their greatest joy and their deepest identity in service.

and lastly…

4. THE HEART OF A SERVANT ENCOURAGES OTHERS – and you know this is why John writes this letter – he sees something in Gaius, something commendable and he takes the time to write him and encourage him. Again, if you ever see something or think about something at church where you appreciate a musician, an employee or a teacher – take the time to tell them.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, Therefore encourage one another and build one another up

And you know, there is no greater joy to the Servant’s Heart than to watch those who are being served begin to prosper and grow in the Lord.

The Heart of a Servant is a wonderful heart to have.

The rewards of looking back and seeing the change that God has brought about in the lives of other people, in seeing the path that God has led us down and in the victories that have been won, make the sacrifice of being a Servant fade away and blessings, joy and praise take their place toward our God who made it all happen.

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The heart of a servant / a look at 3 John

Paul says in Philippians 2, Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves

1. THE HEART OF A SERVANT IS HUMBLE – What is humility? It sounds like a weakness, but it’s not. We think about humility as perhaps denying your strengths, but it’s not. Humility is about being honest with your weaknesses. Humility is when you’re so focused on serving other people that you don’t even think about yourself or what you want. Humility is getting to church and finding your parking space is taken and you have to park all the way in the back in the last spot and you smile and say, “I’m so happy to see so many people at church today.”

1 Peter 5:5 says

“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

You know what “clothe yourself with humility” means? It means tie on an apron. It means put your hair up and roll up your sleeves. What did your Daddy always tell you, “A little hard work never killed anyone.” And you know, when I read “God opposes the proud” that’s a little scary.

Does your church need humble servants? Yes. They could fill the bulletin each and every week with nothing but volunteer positions. And I know, being a Sunday school teacher means making sacrifices. But you know what? I know that the future of any church and the future of Christ’s Kingdom and the advancement of the gospel in your city doesn’t lie with us – it lies with those kids. I mean think about it, people are voluntarily brining their children to your church – and you’re not even begging them!  And the bottom line is – when a church asks for volunteers to help with their kids, they should be turning people away and thanking them by saying, “Thank you for offering, but we simply have too many right now.”

My definitive years as a Christian were when I was a child. What about you? I might not remember every sermon or Bible study as an adult, but I remember all my Sunday School songs, all of my flannel graph lessons, my teachers smiles and the fun I had each week learning about Jesus.

All right – enough soap boxing…. second….

Paul says, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love

2. THE HEART OF A SERVANT IS COMPASSIONATE – Gaius was more than likely a person of compassion. In other words he didn’t just see these teachers and missionaries and think to himself, “wow, someone should really do something about this.” He did something about it.

See and like the previous 2 weeks – for the Christian “LOVE” is an action word. For john and for Jesus – the test of love isn’t whether you’re sympathetic or empathetic, the test is if you’re compassionate.

Sympathy is when you say, ‘I’m sorry you are hurt.’ and empathy is when you say, ‘I hurt with you.’ But compassion is when you say ‘I’ll do anything I can to stop your hurt.’ In other words, the compassion of a servant – sees a need and fixes it.

And listen, let me just say, if you’ve ever had a great “church idea” and then wondered why nobodies done it before or wondered why nobody else has ever thought of it – it’s probably because God’s given that idea to YOU. Not to think about it, but to do it.

The bottom line is – if YOU see the need – they probably do to, but whatever you do – don’t ignore that push and that urging. In other words don’t wait for too long to see if someone else will do it, chances are that voice you hear – that’s God. Last week we talked about being sheep, right?

The shepherd and sheep picture was one of Jesus’ favorite talking points. Jesus said in John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Again, like obedience and love, “following” is an action word. Jesus says, “Christians hear and what? Obey. Not we hear and form a committee, or we hear and write a letter, or we hear and hope someone does something about it – the Christian hears the word of God and then… they strap on an apron.

They pick up a broom.

 

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A study in 3 John / an introduction

3 John is a little longer than 2 John but still short. We said last time that 2 John was 13 verses, well 3 John has 15 verses.  John writes this letter along the same timeline as the previous 2, and so perhaps they were written at the same time – because they certainly carry very similar themes. At the time of his writing, it has been 30 or so years since Christ’s death and resurrection and it is thought that John is the last living disciple.

This letter that John writes, points to the condition of the heart of three people in the early church. This is helpful because it will give us an insight into the type of attitudes, and hearts, that we still find in the church of today.

John begins….v1 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.

So again, John calls himself the Presbyteros – “the presbyter” or the senior and he is writing this letter to a man named Gaius. Now we don’t know much about Gaius, he was a man that John loved very much. Beloved is the word “agape” which in the Greek is the highest and most deepest form of love – beyond physical attraction – this is a love of a lifelong friend. John says Gaius is his soul and his most cherished friend.

v2- 4 Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth

Again we see our favored themes of John. John talks about the Christian life as a “walk.” It’s a journey, it’s a road that we are on as we “abide” in the truth. Truth is something that John is very concerned about – as the last living disciple and as a man who is beginning to watch this next generation take ownership of the church, he wants to be assured that the truth remains, and that truth is upheld.

So our first Church member is Gaius himself & Gaius is the “SERVANT

v5-8 Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are,  who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.

Right off we get the feeling that Gaius is a man who follows Christ faithfully and who loves others. Scholars believe Gaius had the gift of hospitality and would open his home to missionaries and traveling teachers. Gaius is a servant because he is a person who can see needs and his love for others drives him to help.

This reminds me of something the Apostle Paul wrote in HIS letter to the Church in Philippii – he said,

Philippians 2:1-5

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

And you know, you could give me a list of all the different types of people in a church and I would offer that we need servant’s more than anything. If you’re sitting there today and you’re thinking you’d like to help, or do more, or stretch or grow in your faith – I would always suggest – service. The church (any church) needs servants.

 

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Abide with each other / a look at 2 John

If a wolf is in sheep’s clothing, and they live amongst us and look like us – How do we remove them?

How do we punish them?

How do we make sure they get what’s coming to them?

Well, the Bible has our answer in Galatians 6:1-4

Brothers,  if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.

I heard once that this verse was read at a secret board meeting where the church leadership was trying to get ride of their pastor and one man shouted, “I’m not going to restore THAT man!” And the denominational representative said, “Well, then you’re either not a spiritual person, … or you’re disobedient, which is it?”

See the Bible tells us to restore those caught in transgression. The word “restore” mean to mend or repair, we use the word “restore” when we talk about vintage cars don’t we? We come across a classic, but she doesn’t work anymore and so what do we do? We find vintage parts, we research what works and we restore her back to her showroom look.

Paul says we do the same things with people in our church who’ve gotten lost.

Listen, wolves may be lost, but their not a lost cause.

Galatians 6:1-4

Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

So we don’t do it alone.  We bear each other’s burdens. Look, being a part of a church means sharing your life with other people, it means getting your hands dirty and it means other people know your junk. So naturally, if one person is struggling or walking or lost, it’s up to the “one another’s” to bring them back. And I don’t know how many times I have heard of a Pastor who messes up, or a church member who steals, or cheats on their spouse and the first thing the church does is kick them to the curb. Why? Well, it’s easier to throw something away then it is to fix it. We do it so much with our property, now we do it to people.

And here’s the thing,  - a lot of times we think of other’s sin as ‘their own business.’ We don’t worry too much about it because it doesn’t affect us.

But if you’re in the church body – you’ve pretty much lost the right to not have anyone else care about you.

So you should be concerned about the way in which others live – because people’s sin affects the entire church. So you may have the attitude that you’re  going to mind your ‘own business,’ and stay out of other people’s lives, but we are called to hold people accountable – and to restore them – and God takes sin seriously; especially sin that affects His church.

I would hope someone would love me enough to tell me if I ever cross the line.

I hope someone would love me enough to restore me rather than toss me aside.

And ‘yes’ the reality is that all people in the church have their own problems, they have their own struggles and ultimately that is between them and God and they will have to answer to God for those things. But, until that day, we are still a team, we’re a family and the Bible calls us a body.

And so in our own walk – it’s beneficial for everyone if we abide with each other – if we walk with each other as we all seek to walk with Christ.

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You might be a wolf if / a look at 2 John

Acts 20:29-30

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;  and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Here Paul warned the Elders at Ephesus that some of those wolves would show up from amongst their own leadership.

Paul says, the wolves look like us. Well, that’s because they often ARE us. They’re often “part of the family” It could be an Elder, a Preacher, a Sunday School Teacher. It could be me… it could be you. AND that’s ….scary. Right? It is!

And most of the time, I would argue that wolves don’t even realize they’re wolves. The enemy doesn’t even know who they’re working for. They’re so convinced that they are right… that nothing else matters. And so, in turn, we’ll see their commitment, and we confuse it for truth, and who knows? We might actually end up being wolves as well.

How many of you here would like to be a wolf?
Of course you wouldn’t
Jesus didn’t call us to be wolves… He called us to be His sheep.

John 10:27-28

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Why does the Bible use these symbols of sheep and wolves? Well, because in nature wolves and sheep are enemies. This is why John says “don’t give them the time of day” not because he’s trying to be rude, or unloving, but because they are the enemy.

But if wolves can arise from among our own, and IF those wolves could end up being you or me, how do we recognize this when it happens? Tell me something, how can you spot a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Well Jeff Foxworthy has his “You might be a redneck jokes…” So we’ll call this “You might be a wolf if…” You might be a wolf if…

1. You seek to have your own way

2. You play fast and loose with the truth… AND

3. You don’t care who you hurt.

Remember back in Acts 20, Paul tells us that  wolves “distort the truth in order to DRAW AWAY DISCIPLES …after them” (vs. 30)

And the key words there are “after THEM.” Wolves seek to have their own way. They’re not just pulling people out of the congregation, or away from the Church but they’re pulling sheep towards themselves! This is why John calls them ANTI-Christ’s. They set themselves up to be the truth and the focus! These are the folks who would say there’s only one way to run the church – theirs!

The one phrase they use a lot is “This is MY church;” and they actually think that it belongs to them!  But there’s a problem with that phrase; and what’s the problem?

The problem is – this isn’t their church, and it’s not your church, and it isn’t my church.

Whose church is it? (Christ’s)

Back in California, I heard of an elder who told someone that he had the church so wrapped around his finger, that he could set up a Ferris wheel in the church parking lot and nobody would question him. Can you imagine?

Paul tells the Elders from Ephesus in

Acts 20:28

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood

Jesus bought his bride with his own life.  The church is his. But see, a wolf doesn’t think of it that way. And if they can’t get their own way in church matters, they tend to forget whose church it really is.

And this is typically how quarrels and church splits begin, over ego. Over pride. Over will power. Problems in the church happen every time our own way gets ahead of God’s way. Remember what John said? Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.

We can’t get ahead of God – and the truth is – we’re not going to like everything, we’re not even going to agree with everything – or everyone – and that’s ok. Why? Because it’s not my church.

Roman 12:18 says If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Second,  Paul also tells us these wolves “distort the truth” And that goes hand in hand, if a wolf can be a false Christ then their teaching can be a false doctrine.

Just like we saw in Acts 20:30

And from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things…

So why on Earth would a believer listen to lies or follow after these people?

Look at

2 Timothy 4:3-4

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Paul says, some people have “itching ears,” in other words, they’ll listen to anyone who will scratch. Or tell them what they want to hear. Remember wolves don’t care about the truth, or the church – their only interest is themselves.

Lastly – Wolves don’t care who they hurt

John 10:12

He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees…

Again they’re only interest is themselves, and it’s usually the church that suffers. I’ve heard of all kinds of crazy things these people do….

They send out nasty e-mails
They try to steal off church members to follow them as their disciples.
And they’ll find ways to attack the character of the preacher, elders, or anyone else who gets in their way.

Why?

Because the flock isn’t important.

Getting their way is what’s important.

So they don’t really care who they hurt as long as they accomplish their goals.

They’ll tell you they love Jesus… but they don’t. Because they don’t love his bride.

Last week we read 1 John 3:16

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us

And so in order to get their way, they’ll drag the bride of Christ through the streets, and shred her wedding gown, and shame her publically. Because – for them – they’re right – and that’s all that matters.

So what do you do?

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