What Would Your Epistle Say?
by: John Harris
The aged apostle under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost wrote several books in the New Testament. In this Third Epistle of John, he writes of three separate people. Throughout the scriptures, the Holy Ghost points out the strengths and weaknesses of men and women. If any one of us had an epistle written about us, what would that epistle say? How will the story of our life end? If we had a funeral service for you, how would people remember you?
My mother just passed away this past September, she actually wrote a book about herself so that her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren would remember her. Mom actually said that she wanted to be remembered as a person who was at any special event so that the future generations would remember her as such. As far back as I can remember, she was at every special event. In this book were pictures and documents about her life. It is a very sobering thought.
In this epistle, John dedicated this whole book to three separate people. I wish to briefly look at each one. Two of them he was pleased with and one he was not.
Verse 5-6, tells us that Gaius was very charitable. He was right there to care for the teachers who were coming to the church to teach. As I travel this great nation, the Lord has allowed churches to be a blessing to our family. We are always thankful for that. If our pastor invites a guest speaker in to teach and preach to us, we are not supposed to push those Christian teachers away. We are supposed to be charitable to them. Gaius was obviously a man of charity and we ought to be known as a people of charity. In a world full of hate, strife, anger and depression, we ought to be the people the world can turn to and show them love. It is very possible to do so without compromise.
Diotrephes was the leader of the church, but he had a bad attitude. Verse 9 says that he wanted to have the preeminence. This a wrong attitude because the Bible says that Christ is supposed to have the preeminence. Diotrephes’ desire to have the preeminence was a form of pride. Verse 9 shows that he said malicious words to them, and he eventually tried to cast them out of the church.
I am very weary of people who will use malicious words towards men and women of old, people who gave themselves so that the Gospel could move forward. People who for decades worked and toiled in the fields now are often mocked by modern day Diotrephes’. As a college student, I rarely surrounded myself with younger students. I made sure that I was around older men so that I could gain their wisdom. I did not worship them; I understood that at best they were human, but they were further down the road than me.
As a college student, I met my dear friend, Dr. Steve Heidenreich. Dr. Heidenreich became a mentor to me. I wanted to become his Timothy because Dr. Heidenreich built a successful work in the Philippines, and he is yielded to the Holy Spirit. I did not worship him, but he became a hero of mine, and after all the years that we have known each other he is still one of my heroes. Even today I ask him questions and I pick his brain. Not because I am foolish, but because he has wisdom from which I could benefit. Pastor Gary Dice is my pastor. I am almost 39 years old, but I still seek my pastor’s counsel because he is further down the road than me.
We will become who we choose to follow. By the way, the person who Diotrephes turned away was John. This is the same John who walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry. This is the same John who placed his head on the breast of Jesus, saw Him crucified, saw Him risen from the dead, and saw Him perform many miracles. How could he not want to learn from John? Today we have seen God use many men and women of yesteryear. We have seen them build great churches, not just numerically, but spiritually. My question is how could we not want to learn from them? Have we become that arrogant and prideful?
Our elders, preachers and teachers of yesteryear are now the subjects of ridicule, and it disturbs me. We live in a society where they would love to turn the elders away. They are often treated as incompetent, but the truth is that while we still have them we should pick their brains. Diotrephes was a leader of the church and he was very prideful; but he turned away Christian teachers because it wasn’t about him. He wanted it to be about him. Let me remind you that it is not all about us. We are supposed to lift Christ up and make it about Him. I hear a trend that says, “I follow God not men.” That sounds fine, but God puts authorities in our life who we are to follow. As a missionary, I am sent out of a local church. I am under the authority of my pastor and church. I am accountable to them! We are not following God if we are not following the authority God places in our path.
Verse 12 says that he had a good report among all men. Demetrius had a good testimony. Let this be a lesson to us. We should protect our testimony. Remember in Acts 11 where the church was first called Christians in Antioch? They never called themselves Christians, but the people saw something different about them. Their testimony was so respected that the world called them Christians. When the world looks at us, do they look at us as Christians? Can they tell the difference between our churches and a rock concert?
I believe every Christian ought to be separated. I believe a Christian ought to act different, dress different, talk different, be friendly, not compromise biblical principles, walk circumspectly, hate sin, love God, be compassionate, witness and love people. People should look at us and want Who we have. Demetrius had a good report. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:2, “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:” We are epistles to be known and read of all men. Sometimes people will be saved because they observed you and they wanted Who you have. When we become a bad testimony, we will turn people away from becoming a saved person. People watch how we treat each others. John 13:35 says, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one to another.” Some people may not come to know Christ by the way we treat each other.
My question for you is this, if an epistle was written about you or if your life was part of an epistle, what would it say? Remember David was called a man after God’s own heart even though he committed adultery with Bathsheba. He asked God to restore him and moved forward. Even after all the good that he had done, we still remember that David sinned with Bathsheba. Your story does not end until God calls you home. The rest of your story has not yet been told. You can still make amends, break the chains of addiction, restore fellowship with God, be forgiven, rid yourself of bitterness, humble yourself or fix anything else that is keeping you from experiencing the true joy of being saved.
Missionary to Belize