A state trooper pulled over a Mother Superior for driving too slow on a major highway and the conversation went something like this:
Why in the world are you driving so slowly?
Well officer I saw all of these signs that had the number 20 on them and I assumed that was the speed limit.
No, no, no, Sister, that is the highway number.
Oh, officer, I’m sorry, I had no idea.
Then the trooper looked in the back seat and he sees three nuns with panic stricken faces and white knuckles from clutching the seats and he says – What’s wrong with the nuns in the back?
And the Mother Superior says
Oh – well I guess, we just got off highway 140 a few miles back.
Sometimes people “get it” and sometimes they don’t.
Today we read a short letter written by an apostle named John. It’s a very personal letter, and one it which he does some name-dropping. He mentions three men by name. Two of them “get it”, one does not. .
Giaus, the recipient of the letter is the first.
1 This letter is from John, the elder.
I am writing to Gaius, my dear friend, whom I love in the truth.
2 Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. 3 Some of the traveling teachers recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. 4 I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.
5 Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church here of your loving friendship. Please continue providing for such teachers in a manner that pleases God. 7 For they are traveling for the Lord, and they accept nothing from people who are not believers. 8 So we ourselves should support them so that we can be their partners as they teach the truth.
Gaius is a dear friend of John who “gets it”, who knows the great love and sacrifice of Christ Jesus and loves a life that reflects that. He is a man that John he prayed would prosper physically as well as he did spiritually. John so loved and prayed for Gaius, because he was a man who sought to live in a manner like Christ. He had a good reputation because he walked in the truth and it gave John great joy when hearing of his faithfulness. He was hospitable toward all. He lived Jesus’ commandment that encompassed all the commandments. “Love God, Love Your Neighbor” Contained within this is the whole heart of the law. He supported the traveling gospel preachers with his time, energy and resources. He gave them food and shelter. He gave them money. These teachers in the name of Christ lived on the generous support of believers. They didn’t have corporate sponsorships. They didn’t accept government grants or gifts from wealthy non-believing patrons. They didn’t even have a parent church that supported them. No bailouts or stimulus money. They lives and because of the gifts of the believers. They continued to another day of proclaiming the Good News because as Christians they showed love to each other and shared what they had. Because they made themselves servants to each other in the name of Christ.But not so with Diotrephes.
9 I wrote to the church about this, but Diotrephes, who loves to be the leader, refuses to have anything to do with us. 10 When I come, I will report some of the things he is doing and the evil accusations he is making against us. Not only does he refuse to welcome the traveling teachers, he also tells others not to help them. And when they do help, he puts them out of the church.
11 Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.
Diotrephes was a self-promoter. He strove and desired to be first, to be THE leader and recognized as such. He refused to acknowledge Christ as the leader, the head, the chief priest. He power struggled and was arrogant in his manner. He was not only not a good example, he was a bad influence. He refused to be hospitable and support the traveling teachers. Not only that he encourages others not to help them.It reminds me of a story told to me about a charitable dinner that was being held, and a donation bowl was put out to accept gifts to support the group hosting the meal. I heard people tell me that, even though they were there eating the meal, they would not donate, because it would mean supporting the group, and they did not support the group. And they went around the room, asking others NOT to donate as well, and told them why.Question?Why come to eat? Why come and eat a meal provided by a group you don’t support and then not donate and encourage others not to donate? What does this say about your character? It said a lot about Diotrephes. He didn’t have much going for him. When the gospel teachers came to town, he shunned them, encouraged others to starve them out of town, and then tossed people from the church if they didn’t go along with it.He also did other things. He refused to listen to others, especially those in authority. He didn’t speak the truth and slandered people. He was vindictive when he didn’t get his way and John reminds us “he who does evil has not seen God”.
Diotrephes attempted to make himself the center of church, instead of Christ, and it’s one of the main things that 3 John addresses – overly ambitious and domineering church leaders.
Of course, this problem was certainly not limited to the first century.
Bible scholar A. T. Robertson wrote a magazine article that rebuked leaders who follow in the footsteps of Diotrephes. After it was published, he got numerous letters from church leaders, demanding that their subscriptions be canceled. Although Robertson had never met any of them and had not used any names, they all felt that he had attacked them personally!
And finally to Demitrius.
12 Everyone speaks highly of Demetrius, as does the truth itself. We ourselves can say the same for him, and you know we speak the truth.
13 I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to write it with pen and ink. 14 For I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face.
15 *Peace be with you.
Your friends here send you their greetings. Please give my personal greetings to each of our friends there.
John encourages Gaius to imitate what is good, for he who does good is of God and Demetrius appears to be offered as a example for Gaius, for Demetrius had a good report from all the brothers and sisters and from the truth itself.He lived a live worthy of glory to God.
How do we live this way? How do we glorify him?
God’s glory is the reflection of his character in all its splendor and majesty throughout the whole of creation. He is glorified when his character is made known in the world. In terms of John’s language, he is revealed in us when indwelling Truth manifests itself in outworking Love–when we walk in truth which is walking in love which is walking according to the commandments.
For Gaius, it was specifically indwelling Truth that made him value the traveling teachers and his fellow believers and want like John, and not like Diotrephes, to serve them. He would do it generously, not grudgingly, as unto the Lord. And so should we!
True servants of Truth go out “for the sake of the Name.”
The name of Jesus, which is greater than any name under heaven, and in which we are saved.
To live worthily of God is to live for the sake of the Name. But we have all seen people in Christian service go out for the sake of something else.
For some the Church is a small pond in which they think that they can be the big fish.
But it is not to be for the sake of our own name, but His Name.
That’s the message of Diotrophes. It is not to be for the sake of our own name, but His Name.
Anything that you do in the Lord’s service, for the sake of the Name, makes you a fellow worker in the Truth. The Truth works in us, which is what makes this possible.
But what it makes possible is that we work, not on the Truth or even for it, but with it. C. S. Lewis used to say that God instituted prayer in order to give his creatures the dignity of being causes. When we walk in the Truth and go out for the sake of the Name, then this astounding statement applies to everything we do.
When you are a true servant of Truth who goes out for the sake of the Name, then you may have the experience of Demetrius, who received a good testimony from everyone, and even from the Truth itself.
In other words, the quality of Demetrius’ life, of his character, was such that it was marked visibly by Christ. Everyone could tell. By their fruits ye shall know them, and he was known by the fruits. He believed, understood, and lived by sound doctrine. He was not attached to the things of this world. He loved the Lord and his ways, his Word, his people, and his Gospel. He lived worthily of God, went out for the sake of the Name, not himself..
What greater testimony could anyone receive than when they finish this life and come to be with God and they hear their Lord say, “well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
John had real concern that Diotrephes would not hear these words.
Diotrephes was missing the boat. Was going to be left behind. Like people who heard the truth, but just didn’t “get it”
He did not worship at a church that served the Lord Jesus Christ. He served at a church that served Diotrephes.
He said “no” to the authority of the apostles. He said “no” to the whole of the inspired, infallible word of God.
He said “no” to the ministry of John and others. In fact, John says that Diotrephes is going around and maliciously slandering them. We should beware of church leaders who cut down the ministries of other people or who try to damage other ministries in order to enhance their own. People who say “this is my church”. It’s Not. It’s God’s church.
Diotrephes says “no” to missions and missionaries. John says He refuses to welcome the brothers. Diotrephes says No – I am not going to have those missionaries staying in my church. My church.
Diotrephes didn’t get it.
From The Baltimore County Advocate of 1863: “A man about 46 years of age given the name of Joshua Cockersmith has been arrested in New York for attempting to extort funds. Some ignorant and superstitious people believed him when he said that he would convey the human voice any distance over a metallic wire so that it will be heard by the listener at the other end. He calls this instrument a telephone… Well informed people know that it is absolutely impossible to transmit the human voice over wires …The authorities who apprehended this criminal are to be congratulated. “
See….Some people just don’t get it, until it’s too late.
But everyone speaks highly of Demetrius, as does the truth itself. May we be like Demetrius.
May we be like Giaus who John said the people had “made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth.”
Because The truth. That’s what it’s all about. Some people have it, some people don’t.
It’s available to all. The door is standing open in front of you now. Completely and fully, the truth is in Christ, and the truth is Christ.
©2009 Timothy Henry