Balancing Chrisitan Unity

Steve Viars July 23, 2006 3 John 0:

- this morning I’d like to begin our time by asking you several questions...
1. How well do you do at working with others?...
- do you function well on a team?...
- can you find common ground first and then work out to address the differences?
- do you like being around people who are different and do you value learning from their perspectives and experiences?...
- can you compromise when it’s appropriate to do so or does it always have to be your way?

2. On the other hand, when necessary, are you willing to stand alone?...
- the reason some persons might find the first set of questions easy to answer is because they live for approval of people...
- so they do or say whatever is necessary to remain friendly with the pack...
- even if they have to sell out their convictions...
- even if they have to look the other way...
- they work well with others...even when the work is wrong...

- apparently there is some kind of necessary balance there...how would you evaluate yourself in this area...working well with others when you can and should but also taking a stand when that is the appropriate response?...

- it might help if you would try to answer that from the perspective of different categories of relationships in your life...
a. How well do you do at working with others at your job?...
- are you a team player?...
- can you function well when the task requires several people finding ways to work together?...

b. What about at home?...
- does it always have to be your way?...
- is every issue an argument?...
- does everybody else have to walk around on eggshells?...

c. How about at church?...
- do you believe we should seek partnerships and friendships with others in our town?...or in larger geographic areas?...should Christian organizations or even other community minded people ever work together...
- how about inside the church?...so many of our ministries require multiple people working together to pull it off...how do you do at that?...

- now, I’d like to ask you a couple more questions, and they might seem like they are coming out of left field...I’m asking you to trust me for a moment, that biblically this fits together...
3. How are doing in the area of hospitality?
- when is the last time you had someone to your home for a meal?...
- when is the last time you invited another person or another family to go out with you for a meal?...
4. Is you show hospitality at all, do you tend to show it to people who are pretty much like you?...
- who is the person in the last year that you showed hospitality to that is most different from you...and how different were they?...
5. How about hospitality at church?...
- when there is an opportunity for friendships/relationships to be built...
- a church family night...a social event...are you all over that because you value building relationships with people unlike you?...are you willing to run that risk?...
- what about when there is a need to provide housing for a pastor or missionary at one of our conferences?...even if that person is from a different culture?...
6. What about contributing to a climate of hospitality in our town?...
- are you thinking about serving at the picnic we have the privilege of hosting with Purdue University for international students?...
- are you praying about serving as a host this year in the International Student Friendship Program?...
- how do you even feel about people from other countries living and studying in our community?...

- all of that falls under this heading of working with others...and I’m sure you would agree...that if we are going to get the job done this year of Gearing Up for Greater Effectiveness...learning how to do that well in a variety of settings is crucial to accomplishing God’s purposes here...
- with that in mind, would you please open your Bible to the book of III John...page 188 of the Bible under the chair in front of you, and page 1523 of the Chinese English Bibles....

- This month we’ve been looking at Small Books with Big Messages...
- Philemon, II John, III John, and Jude...
- these books don’t fit together because they are small...
- they contain several foundational themes about how to work with others, and how to demonstrate the beauty and wisdom of Jesus Christ and the change He can make in our lives to an ever watching world...
- 2 weeks ago, we studied the book of Philemon – and talked about the importance of the church Model (ing) the Power of Forgiveness.
- last week, we worked through 2 John – which speaks about the crucial matter of Value (ing)  the Truth.
- if you were with us you probably recall that the book was written by the apostle John and addressed to “the chosen lady and her children”...
- we don’t know if it was a literal lady and her kids or if John was speaking metaphorically of a church and its members...

- but the message is the same regardless...the problem was that hospitality was being shown to false teachers...
- it was right for followers of Christ to welcome traveling missionaries and teachers into their homes and into their churches...
- in that day and age the church was just developing and so established congregations were training and sending out teachers and Christian workers to start new churches and strengthen some that were just getting off the ground...that is what the great commission is all about...
- but the challenge then became...where are those persons going to stay?...
- safe and reliable lodging was not readily available...
- so one of the ways that early believers showed that Christ had truly made a difference in their lives was by practicing Christian hospitality...welcoming such teachers into their homes and their churches and thereby working together...
- but the problem we saw last week was that they weren’t always as discerning as they should have been...
- so John had to write to them and say...
2 John 7-11 - For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.

- so what did that tell us?...we have to let our expressions of love and hospitality be guided by a love for the purity of truth...especially fundamental truths like the person and work of Jesus Christ...
- so the conclusion was...we cannot work together with people in a way that would confuse the gospel or compromise core truths from God’s Word...

- and that’s important because many people believe that churches are fundamentally the same and only superficially different...
- that notion is as incorrect as can be...and we dare not work with others in such a way that jeopardizes our proclamation of the key biblical ideas about the Lord...

- now, when you walk away from that study, you could say...then maybe we can never work with somebody else...maybe we can never show hospitality...maybe we always have to go it alone...
- but please keep this in mind --- we always interpret Scripture in light of Scripture [explain the unity principle...]
- so on questions of whether we can work together with others, whether we’re talking about your home, your job, our church, our community...we have to ask...what does the Bible say about that...not just in one place, but in many places...
- and in this particular case...in the sovereign plan of God, you don’t even have to turn the page to get the balancing aspect of this discussion...

Philemon – Model the Power of Forgiveness.
2 John – Value the Truth.

III John - The Balance of Christian Unity.

- read III John 1:15...

- you noticed that there were three individuals named in this book...Gaius, the man to whom the book is written, and Diotrephes, the man stirring up all the trouble, and Demetrius, an example of the principles John is teaching...
- so I’d like us to organize our outline about what we can learn from each of them...
- Three approaches to working with others.

I. Gaius – The Beauty of Working Together.


- John was very pleased by the way Gaius was living...
- and it is interesting that John refers to himself as the elder...
- he had walked with Christ...
- he was one of the apostles, the persons whose ministry the Scripture says formed the foundation of the church...
- he participated in the early accomplishment of the great commission...
- he has penned Scripture...
- and regrettably he has also experienced some of the problems and some of the battles...
- and as an aged man, he is able to jot a brief letter off to a man who has brought great delight to his heart...
- I hope you and I want to be like Gaius...
- now, let’s drill a little further in the text and see what we can learn about this man...
- this approach to working together was...
A. Founded on a relationship characterized by both truth and love.
- v. 1 – to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.
- you see those themes working together throughout these early verses...
- v. 1 – beloved Gaius
- v. 1 – whom I love in truth
- v.3 – brethren came and testified to your truth
- v. 3 – that is, how you are walking in truth
- v. 4 – to hear of my children walking in truth
- v. 6 – they have testified to your love before the church

- if you are familiar with Scripture, that might remind you of another important passage in the book of Ephesians where we are commanded to...
- Ephesians 4:15 - but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—

- achieving that balance requires wisdom that only the Spirit of God can give...
- if you tend to be the kind of person who has difficulty working with others...and you are quick to cut them off, and quick to demand your way...it is highly likely that you need to work on the love side of this equation...
- if you tend to just go along with the crowd, and compromise your beliefs to be accepted...you need to work on the truth side...
- I think I know which ditch I tend to gravitate toward...how would you answer that for yourself...
- Gaius has a delightful balance of truth and love...

B. Dependant on a prospering soul.
- v.2 – just as your soul prospers.
- it is not that Gaius had natural relationship skills...or that he had been to a number of team building seminars...
- the way we relate to others reveals a lot about the condition of our souls...
- that’s one of the questions for each one of us this morning...what does my ability to work with others say about the condition of my heart?...
- friend, is your soul prospering?

C. Requires a commitment to act on truth.
- we saw this phrase multiple times – “walking in truth”...
- that same idea was emphasized last week in II John...
- many times there are all sorts of feeling raging within us when we are around people who are different...and all sorts of desires...
- but God wants us to submit all of that to the principles of Scripture and ten act on what we know to be true...
- for example, a few weeks ago we presented the need for our brothers and sisters in the country of Moldova...
- and a team from our church has been invited to go there and teach pastors and seminary students...
- and some of those folks will be coming a long distance to receive that training...and for some, just getting there is going to require extreme sacrifice...
- so we told you what it would cost to scholarship a pastor, or a student...to provide the books and materials to take this course...
- and our church family jumped all over that project...
- that’s a desire to partner with others in another country...
- and people did that not because it was easy...not because the economy is great...but because many folks around here believe in acting on Scripture...that was true of Gaius...this is especially the case...

D. Especially with those who are unknown or different.
- verse 5 makes this important distinction...v.5 – especially when they are strangers...
- its one thing to say...I’ll work together with somebody who is just like me, or who I’ve known for a long time...but what about the person who is not as well known?...
- we were contacted by a missionary in Slovakia who is working with the team that is coming for the Colts World Series...and I appreciate Chuck Aaron and Danny Little putting all of this together...
- but we’ve been asked to provide the housing for the baseball team from Slovakia...and our church family is making all of that happen...
- who knows how God might use that simple act of hospitality?...
- [cf. conversation with special needs teacher – offer to allow their classes to use the community center...that is Christian hospitality...looking for ways on a community level to work together...]

- and did you notice that phrase at the end of verse 8?...
E. Valuing the privilege of being a fellow worker for the truth.
v. 8 – so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.

- see, Gaius didn’t have to be the #1 guy...he didn’t have to always have his way...
- he didn’t want the credit, and he didn’t want to be the only person at the table...
- there was something very delightful to him to be able to work together with others...
- partnering and sharing and accomplishing things together was a significant delight to him...
- many times that is where synergy is achieved – where the value of working together is greater than the sum of what the individuals could have accomplished on their own...the phrase “together we can accomplish more” would have resonated in his heart...
- now, when we pause and think about this, there are some other passages of Scripture that clearly come into focus...
Psalm 133:1 - Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!
Ephesians 4:1-3 - I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

- see, this is the balance of Christian unity...sure we have to heed the warning of the book of II John---there are times when we have to separate because we cannot allow the core truths about the Person and work of Christ to be compromised...but it is amazing how often people who call themselves Christians will not work with others in their homes, their jobs, their churches, their communities...and it isn’t because of a need to stand for fundamental truths of Scripture...
- it is because they don’t posses the heart and life of this man Gaius...
- many of us would do well to ask the Holy Spirit of God to help us identify habits of the inner and outer man that need to change so we could be more in like with Gaius’ example...
- you might want to say to some people in your life this week...am I an easy person to work with?...and what would I have to do to be better?...many of us, myself included [at the front of the line] could meditate on that principle with great profit...

- if we don’t do that, where does that leave us?...like the second guy...


II. Diotrephes – The Scandal of Wrongful Separation.


- what was going on in the life of this man described in the middle portion of the book?
- John gets right at the core of the matter, doesn’t he?...
A. Rooted in rebellion against God-given authority.
- John says...v. 9 – I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes...does not accept what we say.
- please keep in mind what we said earlier...John was an apostle...
- Jesus had promised these 11 men that after He died, was resurrected, and ascended into heaven...the Holy Spirit would be sent to guide them in all truth, and bring to their remembrance the principles they needed to accomplish their mission, along with all the attendant power to get the job done...
- and also remember, a critical aspect of their mission was that God was crafting a multi-ethnic church...they were to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria...
- and that meant, they would have to be able to work together with others vastly different than them...
- a major emphasis of the NT is the amazing truth that God was bringing Jews and Gentiles together in the same organization---the church [with what is occurring in the middle east,  we are reminded again of how amazing that is...]
- but because John was an apostle, and as the Scriptures were being completed, he possessed a significant amount of God-given authority...
- and this Diotrephes had no interest in submitting to leadership...
- and I have observed over the years that sometimes people who are quick to separate and still up issues are individuals are use whatever particular bee they have under their bonnet as an excuse for their rebellion...
- sometimes something that sounds really spiritual is in fact the polar opposite...
- I am sure that Diotrephes could have talked a good game...but John gets right to heat of the matter when he identifies the rebellion that forms the core of all of this...

B. Often motivated by proud self promotion.
- here’s one of the phrases we need to take away from our study of III John...
- v. 9 – loves to be first among them

- that’s why he tried to undermine the influence of the apostle John [develop – the apostle of love – not a fighter...]
- that’s why he didn’t want these other teachers to be shown hospitality...
- he wanted all of that for himself...
- he wanted everyone in the church to follow all his positions, and hold all his preferences...
- by keeping the group small and isolated, he was able to retain his position of petty dictator...

- I like the way the NKJV translates this verse... 3 John 9 - ...but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them...
- friend, here’s the principle, often people who have trouble working with others are guilty of the sin of pride...I know that’s true of me when I struggle in this area...how about you?...

- what’s wrong in any relationship, and certainly in the church, when you have to be first?...when you have to have the preeminence?...
- that space has already been taken...
- Colossians 1:18 – And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
- in the original language, 3 John 1:9 and Col. 1:18 are taken from the same root word...
- Diotrephes was clamoring for the position that rightly belongs to our Savior...

- see, if Gaius’ motto was – let’s work together...Diotrephes’ motto was...I’m the only one...

- and I am convinced that this is one of the reasons Christianity is not having the impact on our culture that it should...
- the balance that these passages teach is extremely illusive...
- develop the two ditches --- cooperating in a way that truth is compromised....compared to the “we’re the only ones mentality”...

- this is why the majority of evangelical churches are so small...
- there is a Diotrephes...or a Diotrephes-ette...
- and it is amazing how many things there are to divide up over...
- and the book of 2 John made it clear---there are some things on that list---we cannot cooperate in a way that confuses the gospel...
- but some folks have added a whole bunch of non-essentials to the list...and unity and working together has fallen by the wayside...
- and perhaps what is most insidious is that the persons involved are not even aware of what is really going on in their hearts...

C. Divisions must be addressed.
- John was the apostle of love but he made it clear that intended to handle this...
- 3 John 10 - 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.
- this is not because John loves a fight but because he knows this cannot be tolerated in a church...
- and that is exactly what God thinks...in a list of things the Lord hates...
- Proverbs 6:16-19 – There are six things which the Lord hates...one who sows discord among brethren.

- now, where does all of this leave us?
- the book ends with a positive example which should give us....


III. Demetrius – The Hope of Achieving Balance in this Area.

v. 12 – has received a good testimony from everyone...

- the traveling missionaries have had contact with him, and he has treated them well...

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

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