People Examples in the Bible: Is this Gossip?

Toward the end of the Bible is Third John. Though short (less than 300 words in length), this letter is rather fascinating, particularly when you consider it is likely John “the disciple whom Jesus loved” an Elder, writing to Gaius, who it would seem is a church member.

3 John 1:1-15
“The Elder, to the beloved Gaius,…I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth.… Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. 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…” (NKJV)

What makes Gaius stand out?
Truth is in this man. He also walks in the truth. (Inward and outward)
He does faithfully whatever he does for the brethren and for strangers (He is not preferential) (Nor does he treat some people better than others)
He is loving. (His actions are being noticed as love)

What is John exhorting Gaius to do?
Send out and receive brethren in a manner worthy of God, because they are choosing this for God’s name sake.
“We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.” (Joining together as a body in working for the truth, whether people in the same place or those coming and going from a place)

But, then who is this Diotrephes?
He loves to have preeminence among even the church. (He likes to be first and treated different and better than others)
He does not receive even the Elders of the Church (Does not recognize the authority of even Jesus’s disciples)
He prates (talks foolishly or tediously) against us with words of malice (tending or intending to do harm).
He doesn’t even stop there. He refuses to receive the brethren and even goes so far as to refuse others in the church who wish to receive these brethren, on pain of being thrown out of the church. (It sounds like he has even already done this to some.)

What is John’s exhortation immediately following his description of what Diotrephes has been doing?
“Beloved [Gaius], 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…”

John points out what Diotrephes is doing, calls it evil, and basically says, “Do not imitate this man, he is not of God.”

Question: Is John gossiping by writing to Gaius about Diotrephes?

Well, let’s look at what John says in another letter, 2 John 1:9-10, which he wrote to someone else. “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.”

If this is John’s mindset on those not living out God’s ways, what is John’s goal in telling Gaius what he writes about Diotrephes?
We don’t necessarily know if Gaius and Diotrephes attend the same church, but by the sound of it they do. So assuming they do, what do you think is going to happen when Gaius DOES send and receive the brethren? Do you think he might end up facing Diotrephes? Do you think he, too, might be presented with the possibly of being put out of the church for sending and receiving brethren?

Have you ever ended up in a situation where there was something you felt God wanted you doing, something you would do, except that you knew a person in authority over you did not want this thing to happen or for anyone to do this thing?

It’s a trick place to be in, because we are told in the Bible to honor those in authority. Yet, here, John is telling Gaius to do exactly what Diotrephes is forbidding those in the church from doing. John then clarifies this instruction, though, by saying: what Diotrephes is doing is evil. You do what is right, what is of God.

Challenge: Do not let the fear of man (even men in the church) keep you from doing what is right. Follow God and His commandments first and foremost! 1Jo 2:3 “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.”

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Missing Information: When Repentance Isn’t the Best Place to Start

In Matthew, we read that Jesus began His ministry on earth preaching and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

Now, the thing about this is, Jesus is preaching to Israel, and to a certain extent Israel understood what “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” meant.

Why did Jesus start this way? Because 1. Israel already knew who God was, 2. they already knew the laws God had given them, 3. they knew there were consequences to going against God’s laws, 4. they knew the promises of God to bring a Savior, 5. they knew of heaven as God’s residence, and 6. they already knew about God’s prophets (usually the guys saying something similar to this, because they were usually sent by God when Israel was in a backslidden, sinful state and in need of repentance-turning back to what’s right).

Israel was not clueless to what Jesus was saying here when He preached this message of repentance (they understood Who and what they needed to turn back to), however, this is because of what they already knew. Without this previous information, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” would actually be kind of a vague, ill-defined message.

As Christians approaching non-Christians with the Gospel, we can tend to start with “Repent.” Problem is: this isn’t really the start of the Gospel. It’s more the middle of the Gospel.

Until people understand God: who He is, what He wants, and why He wants it, why would they or should they care about repentance?

When talking to perhaps backslidden Christians, who do have this information, by all means start with “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But when talking with non-Christians we might first want to find out if the person has even heard of God, and if so, if what they have heard about God is accurate. (In our culture today, the question is not so much “Do you know about God?” More so, it’s “What do you know about God” “What have you been told about God.” and “What do you yourself believe about God?” Their answers to these questions could establish a whole different context and comprehension to your conversation.

See, because, in strange ways we tend to take for granted the truths we’ve absorbed by being Christians. Things like: You are loved by God. God wants you as His child. God is a good God. God keeps His promises. (We need to not assume we’re all coming from the same foundation of truths.)

We don’t know what someone might already believe (true or false) about God because of their life experiences. For instance, communicating, “God sent His Son to die for you.” May not communicate love to someone who’s parent would willingly placed on their child all responsibility to deal with or fix some big problem while they themselves stay unhindered or removed from the inconvenience of the situation.

Corrupted child-parent relationships (along with many other types of corrupted relationships), can redefine a lot of what we would just assume to be general understanding or the normal comprehension of the Christian-God relationship.

So please, ask questions, give information, and establish where the person is at before telling them they need to turn to God’s ways (Because only then will you know for sure you are both talking about the same God and the same Ways of God). Many horrors have taken place under the name of Christianity and under the name of God. Let’s make absolutely sure we’re not promoting something anti-God simply by being naive of someone’s background.

In order to preach the repentance Jesus is speaking of here, a person first needs to know the true Who, what, when, where, and why of repentance.

Challenge: Don’t assume the person has all the information they need or that the information they have is accurate.

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Exalting the Wrong Thing

At times, the church unintentionally exalts the wrong things. Let’s look at two examples.

Scripture Memorization
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great if kids and adults have a bunch of verses memorized, but are they truly living out those scriptures?

Knowledge without action is just knowledge.

James 2:17-22 “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?”

Accepting “The Gospel”
Accepting the Gospel is great, but this is just the first step. Jesus spoke in simple parables, and yet it seems we still miss the message. Receiving does not automatically mean life or fruit.

Mar 4:13-20 “[Jesus] said to them, “Do you not understand this parable?…The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.
Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”
But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

The Gospel isn’t like a pill we swallow once and we’re good to go, nor is it the golden parachute we slip on if the plane’s going down. Rather the gospel is something we need in our life like air. It’s not a one time need or interaction. The Gospel is an ongoing intake of God’s love, mercy, grace, etc. God gave us Life and is giving us life (this is the gospel) so that we get to live and show His love, mercy, and grace to others. This is where faith becomes fruit. Where the seed that is sowed, becomes a plant, is fruitful, and participates in the harvest.

Challenge: We need to exalt God in our lives not just the things of God. Because without God the things of God mean nothing. Only, with God does Scripture speak Truth, and only with God does the Gospel bring Life.

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Just An Interesting Thought

The first thing Jesus did was communicate to His disciples that He wanted them!

I had never thought of this until a couple of weeks ago when a pastor made the comment that rabbis did not usually go out looking for disciples, rather disciples typically had to come to the rabbi and basically ask to be his disciple. If the rabbi was really someone, too, he might have so many people wanting to be his disciple that he would choose one disciple over another depending on their merits, etc.

So, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always read Jesus’s first interactions with His disciples and the words “Follow me” as more of a request/command. But, from a Jewish perspective, Jesus was a renown rabbi who was saying to fisherman, “I want you!”

1Jo 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”

Challenge: Let’s see how often we can change our approach from telling other people to be different to instead first expressing how important they are to us.

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Happy New Year!

We have seen 2017 shift into the past and now face 2018.

To some this is a cause for uproarious celebration.
To others this event brings somber reflection.
Or perhaps to many it’s both.

If we’re fortunate, we have learned many lessons over the last year, though probably not all in nice happy ways. Really some of the most significant lessons God teaches us are often not taught through good times but rather through hard times.

Stepping forward into 2018, fearing the mistakes of my own past, I think of Proverbs 16:9.

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” (NASB)

Challenge: Absorb the lessons God taught you this last year, do not neglect the lessons He is still trying to teach you, and embrace His grace within your pursuit of both.

May you have a new Year of Hope and Life in HIM!

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Merry Christmas!

Enjoy God’s creativity, and praise Him for your own uniqueness!

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The True Light of Christmas

1Jo 2:8 “…the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.”

Psalm 96:6-10
Honor and majesty are before Him;
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
Give to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
Give to the LORD glory and strength.
Give to the LORD the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come into His courts.
Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns…”

Challenge: Shine Light this Christmas!

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