|Volume 24 Number 3 March 2022
Gary C. Hampton
Watching or reading the news can be depressing. The focus is on the worst actions of man, often against other men. Focusing on such can result in a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. The Christian, however, has multiple reasons for rejoicing.
God’s children should rejoice in the Father’s love. He sent His Son to die for us while we were sinners (Romans 5:8) “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). That love permits us to say there is literally nothing that can defeat us (Romans 8:38-39).
Those in Christ can rejoice because we are free from sin. That freedom was achieved when we changed masters by obeying from the heart the pattern of teaching in the Gospel. Those who have repented and have been baptized under Jesus’ authority went down into the water dead in sin. In the watery grave, they were buried with their Lord, coming in contact with the blood He shed in his death. Freedom from sin was achieved and all condemnation was removed (Romans 6:3-4, 16-18; 8:1-2; John 19:31-35).
Those who are part of Christ can rejoice because of their hope. Peter said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5). We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom (Philippians 3:20-21). Though we may be troubled by the evil around us, we can know the Lord is one day coming to take us home (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
We have good reasons to, as Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
Christ as Lord, or Me as Lord?
The short letter of 3 John was written to an individual by the name of Gaius, whom John warmly addressed as “beloved,” or as a “dear friend.” He warned him of a problem that is as much a problem today as then. “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us” (3 John 9 NKJV). Other translations described him as the one who “loves to have the preeminence,” “loves to have first place” and “who likes to put himself first.” Literally, John called him “the one loving-to-be-first among them Diotrephes.” It’s not the kind of description most people would want about themselves, but it does accurately portray the attitude of many today. Whether done in backroom meetings or in full view of others, such attitudes and ensuing actions are wrong.
Jim Sheerer, in his comments on this passage, said:
Diotrephes was proud. He refused to help the traveling preachers and did not let other Christians help them. The problem was personal. Diotrephes was greedy for place and power. This was a time when the organization of the church was undergoing a slow change. The change that was taking place was to have one man over the church. This was a departure from God’s plan that resulted in further departure in organization. Diotrephes is an example of the early roots of this heresy.
The New Testament is filled with warnings about this. Paul wrote, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). James adds, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:16). Perhaps the hardest thing to do at times is to look objectively at our motives and actions, to see where they originate, to make sure we’re seeking first the kingdom and not making plans outside the will of God (Matthew 6:33). Christ is Lord over all (Matthew 28:18), not us (Romans 9:20-21).
John offered us a point of reference by which we can compare ourselves and see where we stand. “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true” (3 John 11-12). What does it mean to have a good testimony from the truth? Earlier John spoke of those who were ‘walking in the truth’ (3 John 4). It may be this is what John had in mind, a life that was guided by the Truth, being lived in the Truth and could stand objective inspection from others with Truth as the standard of comparison.
I’m sure all of us would want to be identified as a Demetrius, not as a Diotrephes. I’m also sure in one’s own mind a Diotrephes could think of oneself as a Demetrius. However, the real question is how does God consider us? We can answer that by looking objectively at the Truth and seeking others to help us objectively apply it to ourselves. If we’re unwilling to ask the question, perhaps we already know the answer.