Christ In The Church
Scripture: 3 John 1:4–10
Christ In The Church
3 John 1:4–10
Sunday, September 1, 2019
Pastor Randy Smith
We are moving along in our summer series, entitled, “Christ In.” I kind of feel that with the end of the summer series will come the end of summer, so I’m trying to squeeze in as much as I can! These are topical sermons, very practical and at times I trust very convicting. We’ve covered Christ in the family, marriage, parent, ourselves, health, government (last week) and then today (in probably our final sermon) a topic we can’t neglect, “Christ in the Church.”
Now, as we prepare for the Lord’s Supper, I can approach this in the traditional way and cover the marks that identify a true church – biblical preaching, the two sacraments, discipleship, evangelism, worship, fellowship, serving, good doctrine and the list continues. These are essential, and we have covered these often in the past. Rather today, I would like to consider biblical issues using 3 John to explore the topics and perspectives that are often overlooked and one’s that I believe have helped or destroyed churches over the last 2,000 years that most people do not consider.
Remember 17 ways to raise a Pharisee? This morning we’ll look at just 3 ways to destroy a church. Please forgive, excuse and understand the sarcasm!
Ignore the Truth of God’s Word.
In verse 4, the aged Apostle John said, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.”
I suppose a lot of things could have brought John joy when he considered the churches around him, but here he is very specific. This was the supreme joy for the “beloved disciple” of Jesus. This particular trait brought John “no greater joy.” John examined this church and was delighted because they were “walking in the truth.”
That implies at least two things. One, they appreciated, proclaimed and understood truth (God’s Word) and two, they walked in it. In other words, it was taught faithfully, and they were living it out in their lives.
So if I were Satan, one of the greatest ways I could destroy a church is to have them disregard truth. Naturally, based on this text, my artillery would be aimed in that specific direction. It wouldn’t be telling people to burn their Bibles or stop teaching the Word. That is too overt and too obvious, but rather I’d use subtle and covert deception to get well-meaning Christians to neglect the truth.
Hmmm, the possibilities at GBC are endless. How about getting people to think the sermon is entertainment or sitting through an entire sermon for a need to uphold a religious duty? Yeah, nothing about coming prepared to hear God’s Word. I’ll keep them out late on Saturday night. I’ll distract them with Sunday afternoon plans. I’ll have them put way more time into looking good physically than preparing their hearts spiritually before coming to church. I’ll have them arrive late so they can miss the singing to prepare their hearts to receive the truth and then distract others trying to worship when they stroll in. I’ll get them to believe the message is more intended for someone else. I’ll get them to listen for the 1% they disagree with as compared to the 99% they need to know. I’ll convince them that applying what they just heard is optional. And then I’ll get them to forget about what they heard before they even reach their cars.
Whatever it takes to deceive people through subtle means to disregard the truth, because if we can disregard the truth, no one will walk in it.
How about distractions? I find it rather comical when someone gets up to use the bathroom. It seems every head locks in and then tracks the individual all the way to the exit of the church. Then when the person returns, mesmerized watching the person slowly strut himself back to his seat. It’s almost comparable to a bride coming down the aisle! Amazing how quick I can completely lose your attention and your focus is off the truth!
How about cell phones? That’s not the problem! I find it interesting how someone can be irate if an unsilenced phone rings once, but then let their baby cry or chatter for minutes in the church service. Are noisy babies a distraction to me? Yes. But do you know what is a greater distraction? It’s the noisy baby and then me reading all your faces that are screaming, “Why don’t they remove the child?” or “Where is the usher to assist this parent?” And what happens? Attention is removed from the truth because your minds are now occupied with something else. Little stuff, but effective!
Remember what Jesus said about Satan when the Word of God is preached? “The evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart” (Mt. 13:19). Like Jesus taught in the parable, preaching the Word of God is like sowing seed and Satan is always like a bird trying to sweep it up before it takes root.
So strong churches take the Word of God very seriously in church, in their small group, in their family and in their personal life. Their lives are not guided by popular opinion, the loudest voice or feelings. Rather their minds are shaped by Scripture and by God’s grace they seek to apply it to their lives faithfully. They walk in the truth. And like John, when we see others walking in the truth it should bring us “no greater joy.”
Ignore how your Spiritual Life Affects Others.
In verse 5 we read, “Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers.”
The situation there was one in which good traveling missionaries needed hospitality for the support of their work (unlike the admonition in 2 John regarding false teachers). John says helping these individuals, especially when they were unknown believers, was a great work, a faithful work the church was doing for the cause of Christ’s work.
Let me broaden the truth. You are faithful in whatever you accomplish for Christ’s church! This “personal walk with Jesus” makes a good point, but it has also caused great harm to the body of Christ as it fuels self-centeredness and a consumer mentality. We have a corporate walk with Jesus. “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:26).
Without letting it shift to a prideful thing, what would the church be like if everyone acted like you? If they served and gave and prayed and attended like you? Would this be the great church that it is? Are we each playing our part, understanding that we are a body and the actions of each body part affect the health of the whole body? Are you a faithful part in promoting the health of Christ’s body?
Things we often do not consider. Let’s take the topic of righteous living. Do you have any idea how motivational it is to a church when people see you zealously pursuing Christ? You are establishing a strong culture. You are an example for others to follow. Your positive actions affect the actions of others.
On the contrary, how are people inspired when they see professing individuals in the church uncommitted to Jesus? Or when they see people with identifiable sin that simply refuse to repent? Marriages never restored? Forgiveness never offered? Addiction never overcome? Wisdom never demonstrated? Spiritual maturity never achieved? Years and years of a negative pattern from professing believers. Does that give others faith in the supreme power of the Holy Spirit? Does that inspire us to be overcomers and victorious in Jesus?
Good churches are made up of Spirit-filled believers that are walking with the Lord, knowing their actions as part of an interconnected body will always influence others spiritually either for good or for bad.
If you really love Jesus and His church (the two greatest commandments), you will display it by pursuing Christ and being an illustration of how a Christian filled with His power should act. Verse 6 says, “And they have testified to your love before the church.” Can others testify of your “love before the church” because they see your love in and for the church?
A few very simple and practical thoughts. If your social media posts are a reflection of your top interests, is there anything about your faith or specifically Grace Bible Church? Would you ever leave this place that you call your spiritual family without consulting with a pastor or saying goodbye to others? What does that do to the morale of the church? Do you attend only when it is convenient or is church, especially Sunday mornings, top on your priority list? Do you honor Jesus by serving as an example to others? Is it a sacrifice or is it a joy?
Verse 8, “Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.”
Clearly the context is missionary work, but again, we see the need to support one another!
How much are we seeking to support one another? On the contrary, it breaks my heart when I hear people tell me they feel ignored. I am saddened when people only find it in them to criticize or spread gossip or complain or zealously press their preferences on others. We can’t ignore other people or hurt other people and then expect to operate as a healthy body and is collectively pursuing the truth.
Consider these truths from 3 John: Verse 5 – what are we positively accomplishing for other believers in the church? Verse 6 – Do others testify of our love for the church? Verse 6 – Are we ministering to others by example and deed “in a manner worthy of God?” Verse 7 – Do we see ourselves and others as servants for the sake of Christ? Verse 7 – Do we realize that since our encouragement will not come from the world, it must come from others in the church? Verse 8 – Do we support each other? Verse 8 – Do we see ourselves a “fellow workers with the truth?”
Ignore the Preeminence of Christ.
So the first two points – we need to walk in the truth and support those in the cause of promoting the truth by our own example. Now in the last point, what about those that oppose the truth that we just described? What about those that are a hindrance to the truth by placing their preeminence over the preeminence of Christ? Let me introduce you to a man named Diotrephes.
Beginning in verse 9 John says, “I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.”
So first, what was this guy doing wrong? Diotrephes was a man that was filled with prideful self-will. For Diotrephes, the church was to be more about >himself than it was to be about Christ. For some unknown reason, he had a major problem with John. It is not hard to figure out. It appears he had an authority issue. When you like to be “number one,” as the text says, it’s hard to have guys like the Apostle John around you.
Anyway, John sent missionaries to his church for hospitality. Not only did Diotrephes send them away, he also threatened to punish anyone who wanted to help by putting them out of the church. So the Apostle John is shammed, good missionaries are not assisted and people in the church are scared to promote the cause of Christ. Spotlight off Jesus. Disregard for the truth. All attention on Diotrephes.
We’ve had people like this at the church. To some degree, we’ll always have men and women like this. To some degree we can all be like this. Thankfully, literal Diotrephes-like folks are not causing our damage. So what is? It’s anybody or anything that wants (whether they realize it or not) to shift the spotlight off Christ and put it on themselves.
Here are some subtle examples: Hey, I’m all in favor of your freedom to worship, but when your style of worship has people directing their attention toward you, we have a problem. I’m all in favor of the church walking alongside people with their problems, but when you dominate your small group and it’s always about you and your issues day in and day out, we have a problem. I love open discussion in Sunday school, but when your comments continually take the teacher off point and aim to flaunt your intelligence, we have a problem.
You know, when I read the Bible, the Apostle Paul was attacked from all directions. He dealt with the civil leaders, the money-hungry trade unions, the false religions, the hostile living conditions, the absence of financial funding, the bandits, the secular society and issues from all the churches.
Yet as far as I can tell, over 99% of our issues, over 99% of the things that can hurt the work of Christ are from one category: Our church alone. Right now, the greatest enemy to the truth, the best tool in the hands of Satan is us. And right now, the greatest advocate for the truth is us. Will we be all about the truth – teaching the truth, walking in the truth, being an example of the truth, rejoicing in the truth, encouraging others to promote the truth and exalting above all things, not ourselves, but the One who is the truth, our Lord Jesus Christ?